•    “You Gotta Be Happy” – An Ayn Rand Mantra   

    Scales of Balanced Justice

    “You Gotta Be Happy” – An Ayn Rand Mantra

    At issue is the Ayn Rand mantra “selfishness is a virtue” coupled with the embedded sentiment that “You Gotta Be Happy” — and the focus is on what that sentiment actually means.

    I take the position that — The notion of “You Gotta Be Happy” is a human concoction fabricated by the “Doctor Feel-good” social engineers, who believe Life must, at all times, be a bouncy, up-beat, jingoistic, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, cheery, rosy, bouyant Pollyanna fun-ride. When it’s not, the ‘patient’ must be ‘depressed’ and they’ve got the meds needed to “correct” this ‘medical defect.’

    I take the position that the sentiment “You Gotta Be Happy” inherently contains a fraudulent, emotively pumped-up spin and in Buddhism, this subtle point has great significance which often is missed by persons ‘indoctrinated’ in a Western materialistic culture — where ‘more’ is ALWAYS deemed better. This important distinction goes like this…

    The Western materialistic culture is, by its very nature, very dualistic. That is to say, we habitually live in a “Two Bin” sorting & sifting environment. When confronted with any ‘thing’ or any ‘person’ we instinctively sort them into one of two bins: 1. Good, 2. Bad. The third category, “Undecided,” gets wiped out because anything that cannot be judged good is deemed Bad by virtue of its uncertainty, its unpredictability, its unreliability, its defiance relative to a “Good” rating.

    A “Good” rating, in Western materialistic culture, is invariably derived from a tunnel-vision selfish, i.e., self-centric, self-serving interpretation of the impact which the person or thing may have on the individual observer. A ‘thing’ that is deemed useful, advantageous, profitable, gratifying, manipulable, attractive, exploitable, etc., for one’s ego-self is deemed to have merit which we call “Good.” A ‘person’ who is deemed to be useful, advantageous, profitable, gratifying, manipulable, attractive, exploitable … someone who is deemed to make us feel “good,” important, superior, wise, profound, revered, desired, wanted, is deemed to have merit which we call “Good.” Everything else we call “bad.”

    In our Western materialistic culture we are instinctively “attracted to” things and persons that are deemed “Good.” And we are instinctively “repelled by” things and persons that are deemed “Bad.” That is to say, in our Western materialistic culture we are instinctively “attracted to” things and persons who are deemed to fulfill our “egotistical self-centric immediate needs and desires.” And we are instinctively “repelled by” things and persons who are deemed to have an adverse impact or a “zero-sum-gain” impact on our “egotistical self-centric perceived immediate needs and desires.”

    The Tao Te Ching, written 2,500 years ago in China, spends a great amount of time talking about this human tendency, which has been honed to a razor’s edge in the Westwern materialistic culture. The Tao talks about a great tree that has lived to be thousands of years old … because it is deemed by people to be useless. It’s branches and limbs are twisted and gnarled and so it cannot be used for wood. Its leaves are pungent and poisonous so they cannot be used for food or shelter. Its limbs and bark give off a noxious, poisonous smell when burned, so it cannot be used for kindling.

    Because the tree is deemed to be utterly useless by human-kind, it has therefore managed to live to be thousands of years old. Thus it is said in the Tao, That which is useless “endures.” That which is deemed useful “comes to an early end.”

    Some religions share this ‘different’ Taoist view. The idea is that which human-kind deems inferior and useless, is what God most cherishes. Some religious teachings are steeped in this core understanding. Christ stated it as “Least on Earth … Greatest in Heaven.” And he issued the prescription, “As above, so below.”

    Many religions teach that “Least in Man’s eyes is Greatest in God’s eyes.” Their core teaching is that Everything has integrity in its own right, by virtue of the fact that its Creator gave it an existence. Many religions teach that “A person or thing exists FOR ITS OWN SAKE and not for the sake of something else or someone else.” This is the most fundamental, universal spiritual teaching shared by many great religions. All things have inherent integrity in their own right. It is the teaching of COMPASSION and respect for all things. It is what St. Francis and environmentalists understand so well.

    And so we are impaled on the horns of this harsh reality … the only thing that can endure … is that which humans deem worthless … without intrinsic value — precisely because it cannot be exploited. And that which is absolutely essential to human existence — like clean air and water — can NOT “endure” — precisely because it can be and is plundered and ruthlessly, recklessly exploited for the most trivial of reasons — profits and the almighty $dollar$. Thus when viewed through the tunnel-vision self-centric human lens — the right to engage in irresponsible self-destructive profiteering behavior is “enshrined” as the highest ‘good’ — the greatest ‘value’ and an inalienable right.

    Thus we are deeply embedded in this Western materialistic cultural environment with its propensity for the “Two Bin” self-centric utilitarian sorting system. Yet this militant utilitarianism is inherently antithetical to any spiritual or compassionate notion that “A person or thing exists FOR ITS OWN SAKE and not for the sake of something else or someone else.” So now we can readily see why the western materialistic model is deemed to be truant, inherently defective, patently dishonest and self-destructive. That which fails to put a smile on our face, fails to give us an ego-massage or an orgasm or a profit … that which fails to subordinate itself to our every whim and petty desire, is deemed to be worthless … having no intrinsic value. This Western materialistic cultural environment has monetized and dogmatize the value of ‘things’ and ‘beings’ and it has, thereby, trashed a lot of good people and a lot of good things because of its stunted, short-sighted tunnel-vision truancy.

    So now we come around full-circle back to the sentiment “You Gotta Be Happy” … with its Western Culture materialistic background. This is the mantra and the dogma of the “Dr. Feelgood” society, owned by the Pharmaceutical Industry, which has a monkey on its back by way of a fairly serious drug & alcohol addiction problem. Given this unmistakable Western influence, I am simply advocating that we refrain from embracing and legitimizing the ‘feel-good’ sentiment “You Gotta Be Happy” … as it is being generated by the opaque, self-centric, tunnel-vision dogma of a Western materialistic culture bent on placating greed and short-sighted desires in a self-destructive downward spiral — steeped in its commitment to Ayn Rand devotional anthems touting the virtue of “egotism” … and “narcissism” and “selfishness” and hedonism and the demented World View that only one’s own ego self has ‘value’ and all other ‘selves’ are worth nothing.

    The problem with the sentiment “You Gotta Be Happy” is laid bare by considering the spate of Buddha statues that abound around the World. There are an incredibly wide variety of Buddha statues. The India statues tend to always depict Buddha as rather gaunt, with a slight pained grimaced expression on his face. Perhaps that is because many Indian cultures emphasize the ascetic nature of the Buddha’s life.

    The western Buddha statues tend to always depict Buddha as quite “Fat & Happy” … usually reflected in a cherubic body with an avuncular smiling face. But the “Truest” depiction of the Buddha in a Buddha statue is reflected in the gigantic Japanese statue of the Buddha sitting in a full lotus posture, holding the mudra with both hands, just below his naval. The expression on the Buddha’s face is astonishing. It is not smiling in any way. It does not express pain or sorrow. Neither does it express sadness or joy. When you examine the face carefully, it has absolutely no emotive expression whatsoever. And what is remarkable about this Buddha expression is that it is NOT devoid of expression, even though it does not express joy, pain, happiness, sadness or sorrow.

    The Buddha’s expression in this extraordinary Japanese statue expresses pure “Serenity.” “Peace and Tranquility” … which Shunryu Sazuki best described as “Imperturbable Composure” (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,” by Shunryu Sazuki). There is no ‘strain’ in the face. A face that is smiling or is grimacing or is sad … is strained. If ever there was a pure, faithful artistic depiction of simple “Peace, Tranquility” and “Serenity” this statue is it. Whoever was responsible for creating this remarkable Japanese statue surely understood the full meaning of the Buddha’s teachings.

    And so, to understand this extremely subtle distinction being made regarding the sentiment “You Gotta Be Happy” … is to understand the paramount distinction between feeding into the rampaging, insatiable appetites of the ego versus finding peace, contentment, tranquility and fulfillment with what we already have — without needing more. Understandably — capitalism feels threatened by this — while the environment derives ‘hope’ from this alternative World View. To depict Christ or Buddha as extolling the virtues of pain and suffering because of the pain and suffering they endured, is to misrepresent their teachings. To depict Christ or Buddha as extolling the singular virtues of joy and happiness because of the pain and suffering they sought to transcend, is to misunderstand, entirely, the meaning of their lives as teachers.

    The Heart of their teachings is that midway between the Yin-Yang positions of Joy and Sorrow is something which is neither. And that “something” which is neither, is … pure “Peace” and “Serenity and Tranquility” … which Shunryu Sazuki aptly described as “Imperturbable Composure.” It is only from within this subtle ‘place’ that all of reality, as it actually is, can be understood, respected and accepted — unconditionally — as having its own integrity — existing FOR ITS OWN SAKE, not for the sake of something else or someone else. And it is only from within this subtle place that what we already have — is understood to be — more than sufficient.

    This is the True “submission” being asked of us us by the teachings of Islam, and Buddhism and Christ’s teachings, and by the teachings of many other religions. It is the surrender of the small “self” … the “ego self” in deference to the higher “Self” which embraces all things and all beings in its circle of Compassion.

    This, I believe, expresses the supreme difference between the sentiment “You Gotta Be Happy” versus the alternative known as pure “Peace, Tranquility” and “Serenity” … which Shunryu Sazuki described as “Imperturbable Composure.” The latter is self-sufficient, content and needs nothing more. The former is hostage to the perpetual need and greed of insatiable appetites which can never be appeased. The latter is not leaning against anything. It is not ‘engaged’ but rather is completely and totally “disengaged.” It is not grasping for something or clinging onto anything, nor is it pushing anything away. The latter expresses that which is already enduring, complete and self-sufficient unto itself, while the former is hostage to that which is transitory, ephemeral and fleeting … that which is grasping for something … clinging onto something — in a futile effort to maintain and perpetuate its existence … The former is dependent on something transitory outside itself to maintain its existence … it is that which rises and falls in a whimsical tide and precariously fluctuates with surrounding events. The latter is enduring and sufficient unto itself — while the former is akin to the run-away horse that has kidnapped its rider as a hostage.

    Simply contemplating this vital distinction … this subtle nuance is, itself, enlightening beyond description.

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