the rule of love, or: on happiness

“I'm not a churchy friar. Never have been.” 
 Friar Tuck, Robin Hood 2010
“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”
“You have nothing to fear.”
“There is nothing you can do wrong.”

This stems from an ongoing discussion with a friend, modified for public consumption :-)

My philosophy on happiness is this: Happiness is our best sense of love, and love is  already present within each of us from God. Our job is to cultivate it. How do we know we're doing a good job of cultivating it? We're happy, spiritually and emotionally. Maybe not happy with the brilliance that shines with the glow of first love, but a reliable, abiding, powerful contentment and joy.

(As an aside, this is why I admire some of my atheist friends, many of whom are very happy, wonderful people. It's as if they just accept love and happiness and there's no human construct of "God" to get in the way. I don't think God cares much about anything beyond love, because that's what He is, in His most basic and complicated sense. If you need/want faith to feel love, then cool. If you don't need faith, you might actually be at a higher level of living in some ways. Different paths, people.) 
If we live an internal life fully amid God's joy, contentment, and happiness, we can't help but radiate it into the world. We generally reap what we send out. I don't mean we'll be rich and fat if we live this way. I mean we will be generally happy and fulfilled. All we have to do is recognize the gift of love and happiness wholeheartedly, and keep guilt, others' unhappy, unloving perspectives, and material expectation from ruining it.

Of course, it's a matter of perception. If you think the world is shit, that's all you will see of the world. (Kind of like the way I can see no good in any politician anywhere, ever. My bad.) But it's also bigger than that. Take a person who is terminally unhappy, a raging pessimist, for example. On one level, that perspective of unhappiness affects all his decisions and interactions, which is powerful in and of itself. Such a person can find no true joy, even when things go his way. If they do, it's fleeting and reliant on external events. But on another level, I think we are so interconnected with the world that we get what we put into it back to us in a literal, molecular, and spiritual sense. Modern physics theory claims we are, at our most basic, all physically part of the same cloth. Therefore, unhappy people radiate unhappiness and negativity so that's what they get back from the world. It's like they're unraveling that cloth by pulling the "unhappy" thread. Pessimists rely on outside factors to make them happy. They are pessimists because they haven't unlocked the joy within.
I've also noticed a weird dichotomy that if such a person is reliant on outside factors to make him happy (including God) then he feels the world (and God) owes him happiness even when on some level he thinks he doesn't deserve it. Pessimists at heart think they don't truly deserve love and happiness. Very insecure people, pessimists. I think they go around hoping the world will show them they deserve love and happiness rather than realizing they already do.
Cuz here's the catch: God doesn't owe us happiness and love; He's already given it to us.

What if you're friends with or married to someone who is a pessimist? Deep abiding love can protect us from this, I think. If that love is not present as a sort of shield, though, then you're SOL. Powerful love binding two people  shields us from the blowback of the other's negative perspective.  More importantly, our positive feelings and love can influence and shield the other person from their own negativity. They might be married, parent and child, siblings, or good friends, though I think the shield created by romantic/marital love is the most powerful of them all.

I believe failing to cultivate our God-given happiness and love is the greatest sin. Really, it's probably the only sin.

This question of happiness and love is part of my problem with evangelicalism,  the entire state of faith, and also the Catholic church, which has a history of humanizing and controlling God's gifts. Paying penance in order to "earn" our way into Heaven corrupts God-given happiness. Putting rules on living a "godly" life is  sad and I believe creates a living Hell in which people separate themselves from God and love. (That's the only kind of hell I believe in: a self-constructed separation from God.) Some for-instances of these rules imprisoning God's gifts: romantic love must be between one man and one woman; interpreting the Bible literally rather than personally as one would a story; disregarding science because it doesn't fit your world view; living according to some church's rules rather than God's rule of love.  Such rules imprison the greatest of spiritual gifts within human construct and superficial comforts. I really believe evangelicalism nurtures insecurity rather than love. It cultivates guilt and hatred, the antitheses to happiness and love.

You know, I think we have a lot to learn from our Wiccan brothers and sisters in this regard.

What say you? Any opinions on happiness?


Cindi Myers said...

Wow -- just wow -- well said!

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Aww, Cindi. Thanks!!

Christine said...

Wow. Um, I don't know what to say except that I will now drag my bleeding, born-again carcass home. I shouldn't have looked.

Christine Hardy said...

Now that I've gotten over my initial shock at your anti-Christian rant (I assume that's what you mean by "evangelicalism"), I've posted a response at my own blog. But I want to address the issue of sin here.

The quote that you cited from Newsweek was spoken by angelic being to the article's author while he was in Heaven. Naturally no one can sin while in Heaven, but one can do a great many very wrong things in the mortal world. The recent murders of two young girls - one in your neighborhood and one in mine - are stark, ugly examples of active, violent sin. While it may be sinful to fail to cultivate happiness, that is far from being the only sin and as a sin of omission it is quite minor compared to most sins of commission.

I feel compelled to add here that such a statement adds a burden of guilt to someone struggling with depression, and is therefore just as "insecurity-nuturing" as the religion you deride.

It is very comfortable and cozy to choose what you believe, and make it all fit with a cosmic sense of oneness. If that works for you, then I'm glad. I do agree with a lot of what you said about attitudes and reaping what you sow (a very Biblical concept). But I also think that it is because God is outside our ability to understand Him that we need to look to the ways he's deliberately revealed himself - through the Holy Spirit, his word (the Bible), and his son Jesus.

You've got the Holy Spirit thing down, I think, but bypassing the Bible and Christ bypasses the structure in which we find happiness. Jesus said that if we love him, we will obey his commands.

I find that I am most unhappy when I am out of God's will - when I am ignoring what that little voice inside me is telling me to do or not do. It is only when I succumb to God's leading and obey that I find peace and joy. Sometimes he asks me to do things that are really difficult without explaining why. That's okay because He's God and I don't have to always understand, I just have to obey. He always blesses me for obedience and I grow ever closer to him despite my struggles.

What makes me happy? Knowing who I am: a child of God. That we have in common, my friend.