These Things We Believe, Part The First

By Smaktakula

We Not Only Believe In The Sanctity Of Individual Opinion, But Believe That Everyone Should Feel That Way.

On Happiness

Around the world, millions–and perhaps more likely, billions–of people are unhappy. Curiously, this appears to be no less true in the United States of America, which, for all its recent travails still remains a relative land of plenty when compared to to the standard of living “enjoyed” by many of our fellow humans. It is strange that this should be so, not simply because of America’s aforementioned affluence, but because no other culture in history has invested so much of its time, energy and resources in an as-yet fruitless quest for contentment.

There exist a great many theories to explain the first-world despair experienced by so many Americans, but the true causes are likely myriad. The effects  of the nation’s increasingly frenetic rainbow-chase in search of fulfillment have been somewhat more tangible.

“School’s Out School’s Out / Teachers Let The Monkeys Out / One Was Jailed, One Prevailed / Both Asked God “How Have I Failed?”

As a consequence of this happiness deficit, two distinct, but inextricably-linked notions have become prevalent in the American psyche. The first is that unhappy people are somehow failures. The second, in typical, blame-the-victim fashion, contends that unhappy people are themselves responsible for the tragic emptiness in their lives.

Folks, we absolutely believe this. If you–who has so goddamn much–isn’t happy, then you are a failure. And your unhappiness? It’s your fault.¹

We’ll talk more about this later.

You Know You Want It.

***

We Know It Shouldn’t Matter, But…

We believe that if you’re telling someone a story about a dude named Leroy, and Leroy happens to be white, you need to apprise the listener of that fact early in the story. This will prevent the intracranial explosion which would otherwise occur when you say something like, “My buddy stood in line for fourteen hours to get us these playoff tickets, but you know Leroy–he’s crazy about hockey!”²

Likewise, If This Guy’s Name Is “Chip,” “Chase” or “Skippy,” You’ll Want To Devote A Little More Time To Exposition.

***

We Could Not Be More Serious About This

We believe that an inverse, but very powerful, relationship exists between how seriously someone takes himself and how seriously he should be taken.

Ralph Nader, Whose Tireless Nagging Saved Countless Lives By Forcing The Automotive Industry To Design Safer Automobiles, Is In Many Ways Like A Condom. Like The Love-Glove, This Humorless Crusader Has Made Contemporary Life Unquestionably Safer Than In Years Past , While Simultaneously Stripping From It Much Of The Sensation Which Makes A Thing Worth Doing.

***

Tardsie As A Patron Of The Arts

Tardsie writes:

One day, not long ago, when my boys and I were walking into town to get ice cream cones, we passed a homeless dude who chatted me up a little before asking for some change. He was friendly, and didn’t bother regaling me with some fantastic tale of hardship or earnest promises to use the money for saintly purposes (although I love a well-crafted tale), so I told him I’d get him on the way back.

My older boys are not quite five, and I gave them a dollar each to give to the dude as we passed him a second time–they got a kick out of that–and then we walked home eating our ice cream.

I didn’t really think twice about the encounter until I ran into the same homeless guy a few days later in the course of my own rambles about town. He told me he’d managed to scrape up enough cash to get his guitar out of hock. It turns out he plays beautifully.

We believe that was money well-spent.

This Might’ve Been The Guy, Actually.

***

Another Time-Travel Paradox³

We believe that when scientists finally manage to shatter the barriers to the 4th dimension, and time travel at last becomes a reality, its use will necessarily be confined to a select, responsible few. Due to the delicate, precise nature of the time-stream, its stewardship must be tasked to only the most conscientious, upright individuals.

And really, this is kind of a shame. With all the potential for using this technology irresponsibly to achieve godlike pinnacles of power and riches beyond all the dreams of avarice–along with power’s attendant benefits, such as more tail than one individual could bang in a lifetime–it seems an almost criminal waste to award it to such joyless sticks-in-the-mud.

Such An Awesome Power Must Never Be Entrusted To The Likes Of Us.

***

¹It should go without saying that we do NOT include in this assessment those individuals grappling with mental illness. We hold in high regard those folks saddled with conditions like clinical depression or who are bi-polar and yet bravely dust themselves off after each setback and gamely wade back into the fray. The courage implicit in your daily struggle outshines those instances of resolve in our own lives of which we are most proud; it is a beautiful and wondrous thing to witness. Be sure to take your meds. ∞ T.
² The genesis for this nugget of wisdom springs from a story my wife told me recently about a former co-worker of hers. However, in real life the instance of complete and total bafflement centered not around ice hockey, but country music.  ∞ T.
³ Grammar-ninnies and vocabuladorks will be quick to point out our improper use of the word paradox. Nothing’s being done to the word that hasn’t been done to ‘irony’ for years now, so keep your panties on. Yeah, we ended that with a preposition. So what? Down is not the direction in which we will be backing! ∞ T.
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24 Responses to These Things We Believe, Part The First

  1. Ruby Tuesday says:

    Reblogged this on Ruby's Gratitude Journal and commented:
    Tonight, I am very grateful for this post on Promethean Times. Because after a really bad evening complete with a migraine, emotional instability, and a frustrating customer service call, it made me smile. A lot.

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    “an inverse, but very powerful, relationship exists between how seriously someone takes himself and how seriously he should be taken.”—Wise words, indeed. (I like using the word indeed–makes me feel a bit Frasier Cranish. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.)

  3. Waitaminute—Tardsie has kids?? Are they little coin purses or little baggies? How do backpacks reproduce, anyway?

    Also, you speak truth, broseph. I think about this sometimes when I’m in the midst of some sort of “angst.” It’s mostly luxury angst, really. There are absolutely people with legitimate reasons for unhappiness, and it’s not always in people’s control. However, so much of what makes us “unhappy” is just first-world problem stuff. White Whines and such.

    • Smaktakula says:

      Are they little coin purses or little baggies?
      Both good guesses, but they’re windsocks.

      How do backpacks reproduce, anyway?
      C’mon, you can’t tell me you don’t watch bagbang videos now and then!

      midst of some sort of “angst
      To a certain degree, I think that’s natural, and perhaps even necessary. One thing I didn’t do a great job of getting across (although I think you understood) was that I’m talking about “big picture” happiness/unhappiness. Bad things happen; people let you down; sometimes you go to jail. You’re gonna have bad days. To do otherwise is to be a spaced-out blissninny, and that’s no good either. Happiness is more of a life theme (that’s not quite the term I’m looking for; I thought about a “constant” but that applies perhaps too much permanency) and largely not subject to the ups and downs of life.

      I sometimes have to give myself a pity-party wake-up call, too.

  4. “The second, in typical, blame-the-victim fashion, contends that unhappy people are themselves responsible for the tragic emptiness in their lives.”

    I really despise when people say, “It’s all about perspective!” Oh, okay. So when someone robs me, then my husband leaves me, and then I lose my leg I’m supposed to saym “AWESOME GUYS. BRING IT ON!” I do think we can control our happiness to some extent, but the idea that we’re not allowed to be unhappy for a second without it being failure on our part is ridiculous.

    • Smaktakula says:

      but the idea that we’re not allowed to be unhappy for a second without it being failure on our part is ridiculous.

      That’s a good point, and highlights something about which I wasn’t very clear. I see “happiness” as sort of an overall status, and not necessarily linked to your daily mood. In this way, I think it’s possible to have a shitty year, but still be a happy person. Some things, like a death in the family or (and I think much more so) a divorce, might make maintaining happiness more difficult (particularly for those who are not as familiar with the skills and habits that contribute to happiness).

      AWESOME GUYS. BRING IT ON!

      Yeah, there are people like that, who seem to believe that maintaining a brittle, painfully cheerful positivity while studiously ignoring pressing realities (realities over which the person has at least some control) will make those realities disappear. I feel very badly for those kinds of people, although I admire what they’re trying to do. They make me tired, though.

  5. Reblogged this on "You Jivin' Me, Turkey?" and commented:
    O.M.G. I Almost Peed… …AGAIN!
    hehehehe ;)
    Excellent Work!!! :D

  6. Brigitte says:

    Great post. I think we’re spoiled a bit and succumb to that victim thing every once in awhile. But I think we’ve talked ourselves into that if we’re not happy and fulfilled every minute of every day, something’s wrong with us. Life’s messy. Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.

    • Smaktakula says:

      Very wise as always, Brigitte.

      Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.

      I like that! It reminds me of a line delivered (and written, actually) by Robert Shaw in the filmic version of “Jaws,” which ran to the effect “Sometimes the shark goes away. Sometimes he don’t go away.”

  7. One of your best posts yet, and that’s saying a lot. The Nader bit was perfect. Also, allowing your boys to give money to the man who needed it will probably leave a more lasting impression on them regarding morality and ethics than would half a dozen years of attending church. BTW, it’s illegal to give directly to the homeless here in Greenville without a permit. I kid you not. There are also several other cities around the country where this is true.
    Meanwhile,
    Great stuff, man.
    Bill

    • Smaktakula says:

      Thanks, Bill! I’m glad you liked it.

      Thanks also for the kind words regarding our rock & roll encounter. Like all fathers, I want my boys to grow up to be gentlemen. I don’t like it when a panhandler gets in my face or is too pushy, but making it illegal to give money to homeless people seems un-American. So I can give money to a pet psychologist, a politician, or a medium who will let me talk to long-lost loved ones, but not someone who just outright asks for the money. It seems like the biggest criterion is dishonesty. So maybe bums could get around that by saying that chumps who give them $9.95 or more will become hung like John Holmes.

  8. whiteladyinthehood says:

    True Story.
    Many years ago I worked in a factory and we had a temp that came in, who had LeRoy, stitched on his nametag, on his shirt. I called him LeRoy every day. Then one day, he exploded with anger in my face and screamed at me, “I wish you would quit calling me LeRoy – that is some white, country ass, redneck name. My name is LeRoy…(pronounced La’ Roy).” Good to know.
    And if I had only known, too, that Axl was down n out in Slo~ville (I thought everybody was Happy there)…I would have sent my money, too….
    The Hood hearts Promethean Times!

  9. El Guapo says:

    So if you aren’t backing down, does that mean you’re backing up? And if so, what’s the difference?

    Yeah, I read the footnotes too…

  10. Some Guy says:

    If it turns out that you did, in fact, help Axl Rose get his music career back on track, after all the good hard work he’d done to wipe himself off the face of the Earth, then I’m not sure we can be friends anymore. And this is coming from a guy who has paid real money for three Guns N’ Roses albums.

  11. The happiest nation in Europe, P.S. is Portugal who cite family as their top priority. Wonder if that has something to do with it. Definitely I think that people have far more impact on your contentment with your life than stuff ever will. Though not to knock stuff, it does have its uses. Also, I don’t think unhappiness is something necessarily bad, it provides context at least for the bouts of happiness in life. People who are happy all the time annoy me.

    • Smaktakula says:

      And just what do those Portuguese have to be so happy about? I mean, have you SEEN their families?

      People who are happy all the time annoy me.
      I don’t mind people with an abiding sense of happiness. What bugs me (and this may be what you meant as well) are those people who are chipper all the time, even when they should be sad. I think of happiness as an actual state, and being chipper merely a manifestation (or even an affectation).

  12. Elliot says:

    I love it when you pull in a comment or two where they have to argue the point. The one above about certain circumstances is great. Sure if bad things happen you can feel sad, those are the ones who qualify. It is those that have plenty in life and still bitch and moan. Those that think their life is not full of fun things, but don’t have to worry about losing their home, or live in a country where you might be killed for offering the wrong opinion. Those ones need to “can it”.

    That is a summary of my two pence worth (worth slightly more on the current exchange rate than two cents, I might add. But not a lot more….)

  13. I hate both groups equally, both the uber miserable and the uber happy. On the one hand, there are plenty of situations where it’s normal to be unhappy. You shouldn’t have to pretend you’re happy every minute of the day. On the other hand, if you just bought a million dollar house, can you please refrain from complaining about your mortgage payments in front of me?

    As for grammar mistakes, can you please make more so that I feel less alone in the world? Thanks.

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