Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why our happiness counts even if we don't think we deserve it

All of us in life, at various times, find ourselves either deserving of good things or bad. But it is not just we ourselves who get what we deserve. Whatever we enjoy or endure is shared, whether we want it to be or not, with others in our lives – our friends and loved ones, co-workers and even strangers we happen across through our day. We neither suffer nor celebrate anything alone, even when we try to.

As an example, think about the prisoner being punished for a crime. While they're the one locked up in a cell, their friends also miss them. Their family does without their contributions. Their absence from society leaves the smallest of holes in the world. They do not suffer their sentence alone. Others are punished alongside them who never see the inside of a cell.

On the opposite side of the coin, let's consider the lottery winner – at least the good side of it anyway. They're not, in any way, the only person who enjoys the benefit of the windfall. The server at any restaurant who gets their table is likely to enjoy healthy tips. Family and friends may find themselves getting gifts. The community in general gets a boost in tax revenue. Should he invest his funds in a legitimate business, he creates jobs. Even if he squanders every last dime, everything he purchases along the way generates a profit somewhere. My examples are simplistic. Real-life scenarios are vastly more complicated, but time is limited.

Whether good or bad, anything a body is enjoying or suffering, others are just as affected. Try as we might, we are never alone. Even those who've abandoned their closest family to find themselves on skid row share their bitterness in their stench for every passerby. Even they, being as far removed the society as possible, have an impact on others.

Perhaps this is what John Donne was getting at in “Meditations: XVII” when he said, in part:

“No man is an island, entire of itself.
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were.
Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls.
It tolls for thee.”

His religious “filter” within his mind may have caused him to be something of a “drama queen,” but he was close. His limited understanding and relative lack of knowledge put into his work a theme centered only on death and his part played within the church. But, even out of his undeserved-guilt-ridden rant, the smallest piece of treasure can be found. He was so close to discovering a powerful truth.

Even if we ourselves feel we do not deserve something good – for whatever reason – we still have those in our lives who very well may. Our families, friends, associates and strangers encountered throughout each day may very well be deserving of everything good. For that reason, if nothing else, we must look for everything good we can in this life. We must strive for all the prosperity, happiness, love, joy and freedom we possibly can during our one trip on this speck of space dust, even if we feel we ourselves, do not deserve something good, others do. It's not anyone's right to deny something good which someone else may deserve.

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