Happiness, by Design.


Tonight, PBS aired the carefully-prepared documentary about our emotional life, Part I. For the first hour — was it just the presence of deeply-dependent Dad, my own forlorn sense, or the brain crashing after another episode with sumatriptan succinate? — I cried. Thesis: Happiness is an outgrowth of satisfying relationships. Subject: A-socialized children, Asperger’s…….all about isolation, that increasingly-terrifying reality. The inability to bond. Let’s get really familiar. I am exposed. Spotlight: OFF.
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Second hour addressed abusive relationships, the tragic story of one boy who was bullied literally to death, and then evolved into the inevitable narrative of love relationships – how they form, why, what happens to them, all within the ever-lovin’ context of, you guessed it, marriage.
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As usual, I fixated on the entire presentation like a lost soul at an evangelical tent meeting. Why, after all these years, I still fed off this stuff with no hope for a cure was in itself baffling. The college-educated woman in me zeroed in on the subtext; the tireless salespitch for marriage as an institution? or, was there room for something less terminal – perhaps the depth of love, and its binding properties? This was, after all, a scientific “study.” Yes; “studies” showed that marriages became increasingly less satisfying for the couples, but, when children were added, more stabilizing for both. Professional counseling to the rescue and, voila! – happily ever after, just in time. Part I, Finit.
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Of course. Just in time for the new year, steering us toward Epiphany, we are led to celebrate Happiness, the reward for all willing to form satisfying human relationships by working at them, getting counseling, and above all, staying together.
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This theme resonating until my cranium and brain could no longer stand the symbiosis, I began my blinding crawl through the Unanswered Questions. 1.) To what extent do humans require training in the art of forming satisfying relationships? 2.) Who decides when they are? 3.) How many more books will be written (and, documentaries filmed) before we are ready to take a serious look at culture, and just exactly what role the habits of those who bear little resemblance to us do to achieve stasis, stability, security, and attachments that last? 4.) When will the West turn its head away from the mirror and stop the endless looping of conventions that feed the same outcomes, decade after decade, century upon century?
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It’s nice to think about Happiness. It’s nice to recollect moments, perhaps in childhood, or reflected in home movies and family albums, of frozen bits of it. Each of us has a story, but most of us are unwilling to tell it in terms that are singular enough to set us apart; we have been taught, after all, to find the ways in which we bear similarities. And, then comes the task of acceptance.
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Those of us who can more easily speak of oddity, distance, lack of cultivated behavior, or a blatant honesty that seems to make most around us uncomfortable, hardly become part of the social landscape. Rather, we become the subject of such “studies”, effectively distancing us further from the very thing to be sought after: connection.
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Were I, for example, to suggest that, at the moment when spouses or even partners recognize their lack of satisfaction with each other, they each find another who can, with gentleness and care, pull the puzzle into a picture……..imagine the uproar. Once we’ve vowed before witnesses to cherish each other forever to the exclusion of everyone else, we are thereafter programmed to reject each other for finding something worthwhile in another. It never occurs to us as either couples or within the context of society that the labeled culprit, the unnamed paramour, the suspected predator, the ultimate villain, might actually be a person worthy of respect whose heart is pure! Those who document with intent to honor one who sets out to meet the needs of another, even to recognize that which society will not permit any expression, are viewed as purveyors of sleaze and pornography. Sexual infidelity diminishes in the glare of this illumination; yet, the light generated is always subdued by the shadows which form.
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And so we need, above all, clarity. We must stand in direct Light. We cannot suggest anything that might lead our children down paths of destruction. But, we should broaden our scope, expand our capacities, and welcome differences that extend beyond our tediously familiar and increasingly undigestible recipes for social stability. If we were founded as a country upon principles that welcome all under God, then perhaps the happiness we tell ourselves is ours for the asking might better be sought outside of the confines of convention and the traditional counseling that seeks to maintain it. Perhaps we need to go deep — into that less-familiar place called solitude, the closet of our souls, where the thought of relationship with anything but the self we were given at birth can be known and loved.
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I so desire to be able to turn from this tablet at this moment toward the face of a precious someone who declares adoration for me. But, of greater importance at that moment would be: can I return what is offered me, in even greater measure?
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Perhaps we might find each other, alone together. I hope that, if this is so, we both have room in our hearts for an endless expression of each other’s breadth and depth, our arms wide enough to embrace anyone placed in our path. We walk this life in momentary bliss; the next, finer hour will reveal all.
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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 1/5/10
All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line, and reserved. Thank you.
littlebarefeetblog.com
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