Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kids, Life and Honesty

I go through phases. Sometimes I think I have so much love to give. I want a family. I want a cute daughter or an adorable son. Oh, how wonderful would that be? Some other times I wonder why on
earth it makes sense to have kids?! I mean, they are going to suffer! Why do we assume that life is going to be great for them? Why do we believe that “life” is a good thing in general? Everyone talks about the fact that life is a gift and that we should just be super happy and thankful for being the chosen ones to receive this gift. Why? Why should we be thankful for “life”? Why are we “lucky” to be alive? Seriously, why? I mean, what are we comparing it to? Being lucky is a relative thing, don't you think? And we have no idea what it means to NOT be alive. So, isn't saying, “oh we are so lucky to be alive” an incorrect statement?

I for one, find myself fighting life more than I find myself fighting death!! I am not so much in love with life as other people are. I mean, in happy moments, like when I am kitesurfing in perfect conditions or when I am surrounded by beautiful nature or loved ones, I love my life! But then there are terrible moments that make me just hate life too. I was watching the movie “127 hours” not too long ago and I thought, “Gush I would have given up so quickly. It would have been such a perfect death. Doing what I love, and falling asleep in the beautiful nature.” No suffering. Sleep and then … whatever there is after.. who knows? I mean, why fight to stay alive? If there is life after death, I wonder if those who have gone before us aren't looking at us laughing their asses off (or just feeling sorry for us) hanging on to dear life, not knowing how wonderful the next phase is. And if there is no life after death, then why not go when things are not that great?! I mean, if you are not having fun at a party you leave, no? Why stay in a life that you are not enjoying?

Don't get me wrong and don't worry about me. I am not going to commit suicide! My curiosity about solving this dilemma while I am alive exceeds my courage to go to the next phase, if you know what I mean. I want to be able to say, I figured it out! Here is the reason why we should live. Which is an answer in itself, “stay alive to figure out why one needs to stay alive!” Now, if that is the purpose of life, the universe has a wicked sense of humor! Plus, I am always curious about what is going to happen tomorrow. New adventures, new experiences, new feelings, growth, these things really give me a reason to live.

So, what makes you happy and your life worth living? We all know money and material possessions do not make you happy. They make your life more comfortable and they make your desires come true faster and more easily, but they don't make you happy (at least beyond $75K a year according to the latest studies). So money is not it. Some say, “giving” and “being of service” make you happy. Some even say that it is the ultimate purpose of life. I get it and I respect it. But the one problem I have with that explanation is that I feel it is a bit of a cop out. I mean, you thought long and hard about the meaning of life, and because you could not find a meaning for “your own” life, you decided to dedicate it to being of service to someone else's life who hasn't figured out a meaning for their life either! You see what I mean?

For now, I remain in nihilistic bewilderment! If you are happy living and never experience a desire to die, good for you. Really, mean it. Good for you! As for me, I swing between various states. Sometimes I get caught up in life and its extremely happy moments and terrible pains. Sometimes I am completely apathetic and indifferent. Sometimes I am in utter amusement over watching myself from a distance living like a character in a play or a player in a game. What is it all for?

When I lived in Iran it was quite normal to complain about life and how everything sucked! When someone asked you how you were, you would say something like “not bad” or “so so”. You would almost never say “very well!” or “great”. (Yes, I am generalizing so if you are an Iranian living in Iran and you usually smile and say, “I am great!”, good for you. But please kindly accept that you are a minority. OK?)

In Iran, if you are always super happy, there is a good chance people will label you as superficial or crazy. They think there must be something wrong with you if you are always happy. We even have an expression for it in Farsi: “alaki khosh”! Surely an empathetic and profound human being would be suffering, sad, and in pain because of all the pain, suffering and injustice in this world. Wouldn't they? I think this attitude -other than having empathy- is due to the fact that modesty is a big virtue in Iranian culture. The same way that it is not polite to brag about your money or status, it is not cool to brag about how great you feel either. So people modestly say, “I am OK. Thanks to Allah”!

When I moved to Canada I was surprised by how uncool it was to say something short of “very well” or “great” in response to someone asking you how you were. I liked the fact that people were positive and that it was a “value” to be happy. I never liked complaining and focusing on the negative so I really embraced this culture of proudly smiling and saying that you felt great.

Recently though, I have noticed that this is not quite genuine either. Statistics show that the rate of depression worldwide has constantly grown in the last 60 years, especially in younger people, and especially in the more developed countries like US. So, we are certainly not all feeling great! In fact, most of us are feeling pretty blue. Which brings me to my main point. Why aren't we just honest with ourselves and the whole world? I mean, most of us are sometimes happy and sometimes sad. Sometimes things are great, and sometimes they suck. To be perfectly honest and a 100% factual, the glass is half empty and half full. Isn't it? Why do we keep “pretending” that everything is great, or that we are extremely positive people who only see the glass half full?

Researchers say that a higher percentage of those who are active on Facebook are unhappy with their lives, than those who are not active on Facebook. They say the reason is that most people only share positive and happy aspects of their lives on Facebook and seeing those updates makes the viewers unhappy about their own lives by comparison. See? This is almost back firing. By pretending to have amazing lives we are even making ourselves sadder!

To wrap it up, I think we should be honest. Please stop pretending that your life is “not too bad” when you are feeling great, and stop pretending that you are just fabulous, when you are not. As for kids, I still have no idea. In the end, will their cumulative-life-scale dip lower on the “fabulous” side or the “terrible” side? Who knows? And is it worth the risk? I have no idea. Do you?

14 comments:

  1. Dear Maryam, I think the whole notion of be happy is a wrong one. I personally like to have a more interesting life than a happy one. This journey that we go thorough is neither sad nor happy, it is just a life. As a father, I do think about what I have done to bring these boys to this life but then when I look at them regrets go away. However, I do think there is too much expectation that we all be happy all the time, like if one day you feel like crap, every one ask “What is wrong?” nothing I just have a crappie day for whatever the reason I am not feeling good and that may not be bad for me. I remember when I was young my father used to take us to Cemeteries to pay visit and respect to our grandparents and he used to say to me “when you are too happy or too sad go to cemetery that is where all of us end up, do not take life too serious no one leave it alive”. I have decided on the interesting life not so much as happy one anymore.
    Thanks,
    Farshad

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    1. Hmm... interesting approach (no pun intended!) Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Viktor Frankl's meaning of Life can help.

    Life with meaning = hope
    Life without meaning = Despair

    He also talks about Happiness as a fleeting result not a goal.

    Our generation is caught in what he calls the existential vacuum. Everything is given to us. We have food shelter... So we search for happiness directly instead of letting it come as a result of our meaningful pursuits. So we all need to appreciate what we have and more importantly make sure what we do has meaning to us.

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  3. It’s never easy to find life purpose. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult things to do. In life there are always difficult times to go through. We may experience failures or rejections but we need motivation to keep going wich is LOVE. I genuinely feel that we are all blessed with unique gifts. The expression of our gifts contributes to a cause greater than ourselves.

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  4. I totally 100% agree that life is not a gift. It is what it is and who know what was the pre selection process to come to this world. We are sold this BS just the same way that we are told, there is a reason why one is miserable or something bad happens. I ask myself how could it be,a kid born who is born in poverty or with fatal disease and dies young is given a gift??
    We are here... it is a wild party going on and if you are lucky to be in the fun part of it, enjoy it. Otherwise, find the fun part to enjoy your presence there. My thinking is to surrender to life, because it is a mystery and not a gift. just live through it... I hope there is a better after life. We will see.

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  5. I like the way you put the question. Unlike most others who normally ask : Why we are here ? why we have come to this world and what is the reason of our being ? You ask : why we have to stay ? why keep on living this life if it's not that much brilliant ? I believe happiness could not be a great motive for living, if it simply means "being happy", nor "giving" and "being of service to others". I used to believe having children can give all that lost meanings to life, but now I know for sure that even these great gifts cannot be incentives of living just alone, though they may feel many of your moments with joy and happiness. I come to this conclusion after years that nothing outside can define my life and my feeling towards living and what I'm looking for is actually coming from inside of me. For me, what makes life worth living is only my DREAMS !! This may sound a bit unrealistic but I believe the only thing that differentiates human beings from other creatures is their ability to dream. I respect this belief that we have to only live this life and it's not our duty or better said destiny to find the mystery of life, we only need to live in the present moment and try to accept all it brings to us . But this is simply what other creatures do as well. They never dare to ask : why I have to live this life ? They only live it. but if I have been given this ability to think and question, that has sometimes makes me feel life is less wonderful comparing to other creatures, there must be some other thing inside of me that compensates this and I believe that thing is our "ability to dream", to create a world with infinite possibilities and choices beyond the limits of this life. Only dreams can help me find that everlasting flame inside of me which ignites all my days and nights even in the midst of sufferings and pains, it's only the possibility of a dream come true that makes you looking forward for each brand new day of your life. Remind me of this great song from ABBA : I have a DREAM, a song to sing, to help me cope, with anything ...

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    1. Sorry for my spelling and grammer mistakes ! I've already found some :) and something I missed to mention, about the kids, I have no idea either !! yet don't know if it really worths to bring them in or not?

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    2. Laleh, thanks for your comments. Very interesting view point. Made me think about my dreams and I have to admit I don't dream much! Maybe I should start going that :)

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  6. usually we forget the happy moments when we are sad, on the other hand we forget those sad times when we are happy... I think that's the only thing which keeps us going! 'cos we always think the situation is gonna change soon! and when it changes, we feel happy again but the matter is, right after the problems are solved we forget those sad moments instead of learning from them... so we just go back to where we were again.. we repeat and repeat and repeat..that makes us feel sad of course... I think we are not happy because, we still do not have a good description of being happy!!! so first of all it's better to ask ourselves, who's a happy person???

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    1. Thanks Sam. That seems to be the million dollar question! What makes one happy? :)

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  7. Very provocative post. You have a knack of getting at the heart of a question. I agree that happiness and sadness are very subjective and relative. But they are also judgments, a scale by which we rate times and experiences in our life. Sometimes I feel happy just spontaneously (without much thought) and sometimes my happiness is found after thinking and processing what I am experiencing. And of course sometimes it is not to be found at all. So to a certain extent happiness is a decision and a chemical process in our brains. I think happiness is also subject to a similar Law as Newtons 1st Law of Motion. A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless influenced by another force. A happy person is likely to remain happy. They tend to draw happiness to them, they tend to focus on the elements that make them feel happy. Same holds true for sadness. Where does that leave us? Happiness begets happiness, it is a decision to some extent, it is learned behavior to some extent, it is influenced by outside factors (friends, lovers, activities). So maybe the question for you and for each of us is what makes us happy? You feel effortlessly happy when you are kiting in perfect conditions, why? Is it the culmination of the hours of practice and resources to get to the level you are at, and it is all summed up and proven by a great session. Or perhaps it drives production of feel good chemicals in your body. Maybe it's just the rush of working in concert with nature, feeling that natural harmony that seems to lack in regular life. Probably a combination. How can you apply whatever it is to the more mundane aspect of human survival, work, eating, relationships etc.? As for what is next and if it's better why not go now, or sooner rather than later? I think Rumi sums up my general feeling best. "All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there." Ok that is where I was going to end this comment but I have one last thought. If you could tier emotions and feelings. I think happiness and sadness are flimsier and more fleeting than joy and contentment. The pursuit of happiness is a cornerstone in our culture, keeping most at that flimsy and superfluous level. One can find joy without happiness...I think you are on to something when you say "Sometimes I am in utter amusement over watching myself from a distance living like a character in a play or a player in a game." I bet that that amusement is sometimes because of great things that happen, and sometimes it is amusing just how much crap we all have to deal with. If you anchor your sense of self in that higher or more removed perspective, the moments of happiness and sadness hold less gravity and the amusement of whatever you are doing or experiencing takes over. My 2 cents! :)

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    1. Hey thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I agree 100%. Here is to joy! and to hormonal and chemical balance ;)

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  8. Interesting post. More in a style of a flow of consciousness. You started out talking about the desire to have kids and a family and then questioning this desire. But then you did not expand on that theme more which I would have liked to see. The difference in cultures Canada vs. Iran is something I can relate to as well having grown up in Russia. In Russia people don't typically smile all the time and say everything is great. So maybe people are less pleasant to interact with but at least you know where you stand and you don't have to decipher if this person genially cares or just puts on a friendly mask.

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  9. Thanks Yulia. You are right I did not expand on the family issue, I guess simply becuase I really do not have an answer. Just the question that I talk about in the last paragraph. Will this be a happy life and a true gift for them?

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