Near to my home is a billboard advertising a local radio station. Big, big ultrabright smiles and wide eyes of the three hosts*, the phrase “GET HAPPY” emblazoned.
That phrase, and the billboard in general, makes my eye twitch just thinking about it. Every time I see it I mutter “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.”
I will not get happy because you tell me to. I cannot get happy. NO-ONE can get happy. “Happy” is not another thing to acquire, you consumerist capitalist pigs.**
Feelings/ emotions are cultivated within us. Although they fundamentally depend on external factors – are you eating/ sleeping well? Do you live in a stressful environment? – all emotional states are an aspect of a person’s worldview. Emotional states don’t just happen; they arise through complex perceptions of how the world works, often simplified to the question “is the cup half-full or half-empty?” Clichéd, yes, but still valid. If someone believes the world is out to get them, it’s very difficult for them to feel happy. Myself? “Dude! I’ve got a CUP!/ There is no cup.”
Also, feelings are fleeting. They wax and wane each minute/ hour/ day. This is both the nature of your brain, and impermanent nature of reality. To “get” a feeling and hold on to it is impossible. And stupid. I’d rather be present in whatever I feel at any given moment, from eye-twitching rage to joy that I’ve got a cup of coffee at my side.
* 2 male, 1 female = dear lord forbid that female voices should dominate the conversation.
** Really, stop telling me what to do or how to think. You’ve no business at all doing that.
Image: Journalist Malcolm Browne’s photograph of Quang Duc during his self-immolation.