Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Happy or Satisfied? Freedom and Responsibility

Happy New Year. Most of us are raised with the word happy as a reference that describes the degree to which we feel good about life, and ourselves. Are you happy? Do you want to be happy? Why aren't you happy? But, what does it mean to be happy? Is happy a proper way to understand our feelings about our lives? Or, does the word distort our ability to truly know how we feel? As far as I can tell, the only people I know who are happy seem to be living an illusion of reality, while the rest of us struggle along, wondering what is wrong with our lives, because we haven't attained this ideal state of being happy. Recently, in my ongoing passion to know myself, I realized that the more appropriate word would be, satisfied. Are you satisfied? Do you want to be satisfied with your life? Why aren't you satisfied? 

Satisfied seems so obtainable, a rational, real way to measure our pleasure in living.

I live in the United States, though I work in Europe every year, and Latin America some years. Being American, I was raised in a world where everyone worked hard, and no one expected, or wanted, to be helped. Freedom was inseparable from being responsible for your life. No one less could order you to do something if you didn't want to do it. If you didn't like your job, you could try to find another one. If you didn't like your life, you could change it. It was, and is, very hard. But, it is the price one pays for one's freedom. I have always preferred this to the systems which raise people to believe that they will be assisted in living their lives. To me, assisted living is for people who are ill, or handicapped, and cannot take care of themselves. Most people don't fall into this category. But, more and more, I see Americans creeping towards assisted living, what we call, in political terms, Socialism. For them, freedom is too hard. They would exchange it for help, giving more power over their lives to the government. While I do believe that there is a common joining together in a society, I do not think that means that the government runs our lives in exchange for us having security, and money to live with, which we have not earned, unless, in rare cases, we cannot work. And, even this is relative. There are many handicapped people who want to work. It seems the only ones who don't want to work are those who are emotionally handicapped, and somehow, unable to fend for themselves.

I am thinking about this because I've received emails recently from students who want to come to New York to work with me, but who are having problems earning the money to do it. They complain about how difficult it is. Honestly, I've never found life, or making a living, easy. And, I grew up in a relatively privileged world. When people say, as they did in the past few years, we're in a depression, I laugh. The theater is always in a depression. You get used to the fact that its hard. I've known actors who have won academy awards who can't get work. Look at how Hollywood treated Orson Welles, or Marlon Brando, or Bette Davis. I could go on and on with naming names. So, according to my experience, after awhile, life isn't hard, its just life.

If life is so hard in the free world, why are terrorists trying so hard to destroy us? What is it that they hate so much? It certainly isn't the difficulties of life in the free world. So, it must be the freedom that they hate so passionately. They can't stand the feeling of watching living freely and taking responsibility for our lives. Seeing a man and woman holding hands drives them to murder and torture. A woman trying to educate herself is a crime worthy of death. Disobedience to their authority is punishable by death. They want to destroy, or control, us. The worst part of this is that,  unfortunately, they are supported by a lot of people in the free world who, because they are afraid, and cannot tolerate their own feelings of aggression, say that these terrorists are justified in their hatred. And, that we should become more passive and helpless. They believe that we can reason with these sick, madmen. They hope that if we do this, the terrorists will stop their attacks. They are wrong. It won't stop it. It will increase. Because, the terrorists are mean, cruel, bullies who want to rule everyone's lives, so that they don't have to feel the pain they feel when they see someone living freely.

As difficult as freedom is, I hope that all of you reading this continue to fight for your dreams. It is the pleasure that we can do this, and perhaps, even have moments when we succeed, that makes life worth living.