By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 1/16/2021
Posted: 11/18/2008
Updated: 6/6/2017
Topics/Keywords: #Metaphysics #Spirituality Page Views: 1717
Many people feel that something is missing from their lives; and for all their attempts to fill that void with food, fashion, TV or religion, nothing they've tried seems to really bring them happiness. And that, of course, is the key: Nothing they've TRIED.
Peggy Lee's Is That All There Is?

In perhaps the most depressing song ever written, "Is That All There Is?" by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and recorded in 1969 by Peggy Lee, the singer laments that the various events that should have defined her life, such as a house fire, going to the circus for the first time, or falling in love, instead left her feeling empty and disappointed. In the song, the singer announces that she won't kill herself, only because she's certain that even death will be "that final disappointment."

My initial reaction is, "Suck it up, lady!" But I do appreciate that many people do, indeed, feel that something is missing from their lives; and for all their attempts to fill that void with food, fashion, TV or religion, nothing they've tried seems to really bring them happiness.

And that, of course, is the key: Nothing they've tried. They've been following our culture's suggestions on how to find happiness; but our culture isn't in fact qualified to offer advice on that topic, based as it is entirely on moving money from the pockets of workers to the off-shore bank accounts of the very rich. (Which, by all accounts, doesn't even bring happiness to the very rich! —Though it probably doesn't make them miserable, either.)

Unfortunately, this cultural bias has permeated every aspect of life in these United States. Religion is big business; churches are opened and closed based on where the tithes are, not where needy people are located. TV's job is to misinform the public to the benefit of the military-industrial complex, whose pockets are lined by every groundless war and every artificial moral outrage (such as the outcry against "gay marriage", spearheaded by a religion whose own marital practices so offended their neighbors they were forced to flee and move to Utah).

You would think that being a billionaire and living in the White House would make a person happy…if things could make a person happy. But they don't.

So, if a day of working in an office or out on the job, followed by an hour at the health club and a couple more in front of the tube, with a break Saturday for the game and Sunday for church hasn't been doing it for you, don't feel as if you are alone. What's more, statistically speaking, there's an inverse relationship between intelligence and fulfillment. Ignorance, as it turns out, is bliss.

But intelligent people are the ones with the most promising tools to find a way out of this bind. The unintelligent are the ones who keep applying the same techniques hoping that, this time, they'll work. The intelligent realize that, if a technique isn't working, another must be found.

So, if happiness can't be found in the outward manifestations of materialism, and doesn't result from the outward manifestations of religion (ritual, pontification, dogma and moral outrage), perhaps it is being sought in the wrong direction entirely. Maybe, just maybe, we could find happiness if we look within.

Instantly the person who announces this is barraged with advice (generally from people who are themselves unhappy) suggesting that this was tried in the '80s "me generation". But, of course, it wasn't. The "me generation" was about owning things. Looking within for happiness, is a search for something you already own.

That's the key. It sounds simplistic, but you can simply decide to be happy. Just do it! There's a popular yoga exercise in India where groups of people gather in the morning and laugh. It's a ritualistic laugh: "Ha ha ha! Ho ho ho!" But it exercises the same muscles that genuine laughter exercises, and studies have shown the same hormones are released. What's more, laughter is contagious; doing it in a group soon evolves into real laughter.

And these people, many of whom don't even own TVs, much less Priuses or Guess jeans, are, in fact, happy. Some of them may also be hungry, but when they've "taken [their] last breath", as Peggy Lee sang, they aren't likely to be disappointed.

A study demonstrated neuroendocrine and stress-related hormones decreased during episodes of laughter, which provides support for the claim that humour can relieve stress. Presenting their findings at the 121st Annual Meeting of the American Physiological Society, researchers have also found that the anticipation of a positive humorous laughter experience reduces potentially detrimental stress hormones, cortisol, epinephrine and dopac. The stress hormones were reduced 39, 70 and 38 percent, respectively.

J.Y.T. Greig, The Psychology of Comedy and Laughter

In my next post, we'll look into how the eternal questions ("Why am I here? Where did I come from? Why do I spend so much time looking at Internet porn?") may have answers that can be found within. In the meantime, humor me: Spend three minutes before going to bed and tomorrow morning after getting up, looking in a mirror and laughing. 180 seconds. The less you feel like laughing, the more useful this exercise will be, I promise!