Roller Coasters, Billy Shakespeare and Head Banging for Happiness.
Most of us find happiness riding roller coasters because they're exciting. There's a rather fine line between excitement and terror, and if you've ever had a 'bad trip' on a roller coaster ride, you know what it's like to cross that line, but we actually like being a little scared, and that's really why we do it.
We ride for the movement between the highs and lows and not to actually get somewhere. If we were trying to get somewhere we would be disappointed when we came to a stop at the same place from which we started. We're also not interested in coming to a stop on one of the high or low spots on the track, which would quickly bore us to tears.
The roller coaster ride happens to be a pretty good analogy for our search for happiness. The first thing we can notice is that it's the search we actually enjoy, assuming it doesn't cross that fine line between excitement and terror, and when we get where we're going we immediately begin to lose interest in whatever we have. That's not to say we won't enjoy that financial windfall, or new house or car, relationship, job, or whatever. But we quickly settle into our new situation and lose interest surprizingly quickly. This is very much like the roller coaster coming to a stop at the high point along the track. The view is great, but the only movement going on is really the thoughts about how great the view is, and really it's time to continue the ride.
So, there are really two ways that the ride can continue from here. Either we go up towards another higher goal, or we go down to one of the low spots. There isn't a third option, and if we do nothing at all, this is a ride down, so that's why we so quickly set another goal and start seeking happiness again.
So why do we head downward when we do nothing? Because the movement has stopped and all feeling is a movement. We're at a standstill at the high point of the track, and in spite of the view, we're not moving, so we're not feeling anything. Even feeling angry or a little scared is better than not feeling anything at all, which is why we tend to create drama in our lives, usually taking a few others for a ride with us. This is a ride down to the low spot in the track, and the good thing about it is that when we get there, we can start heading back toward the next high spot. If you're honest you'll see that this is how your whole life has been. It's how everybody's life is.
The ride ends where it began because it was never about the destination, it was about the journey. Assuming your life is relatively stable and your situation is not life threatening, it doesn't really matter where you are when one ride comes to an end and another begins. You may have more things, security or fame, but they don't actually make you happier unless you're constantly reminding yourself of how much better off you are than you used to be; a trick of the mind that simulates another movement, which will get progressively more difficult to perform as time passes. We all tend to take our situation for granted, not because we're careless or ungrateful, but because life isn't about static conditions. It's about movement.
There's nothing at all wrong with enjoying the ride, and when we understand that it includes both up and down, we don't invest so much in outcomes and just enjoy the ride. Without that attachment to outcome, the ride can be enjoyed for what it is. As Shakespeare said "The play's the thing".
So can the ride down be enjoyed too? Well, as I mentioned, we actually enjoy those so called negative feelings too. It's when we cling to goals, such as feeling happy all the time, that fear and sorrow cross that 'fine line' into terror and grief, and become something to be avoided.
Billy Shakespeare said something else that might be useful. He said "Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." After all, you got on the roller coaster in the first place because it makes you a little scared, just as you watched that tear jerker the other day because you wanted to feel sad. Feelings are not the problem. Thinking that the feelings are a problem, is the problem. This is what causes them to cross that 'fine line' and become suffering.
Could it be so simple? Could it be that the whole problem with seeking happiness is the idea that there's a problem with it? The misunderstanding that 'The goal's the thing', and the failure to recognize that fear and sorrow are not bad until 'thinking makes it so'? All this time you've been chasing happiness and all you really wanted was a foundation of contentment where you could stop turning life into a problem to be solved. This is the peace that teachers have spoken of for millenia, but it hides in plain sight.
It hides because it is indeed the peace that passes all understanding. You cannot understand how ceasing to bang your head against the wall can be the goal, and that you have mistaken the problem for the solution. Apparently, William Shakespeare knew all about roller coasters.
More Inner Peace articles:
Suffering and it's Causes
Finding our Sense of Self
Volition / Free Will
The Simplicity of Dissolving the Questions
Finding Inner Peace: Looking for Peace in all the Wrong Places.(part 1)
Finding Inner Peace: Looking for Peace in all the Wrong Places.(part 2)
The Wave Who Searched for the Ocean
Acting with Virtue Vs Being Virtuous
Ground of Sadness
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