Life, Happiness, Responsibility and Death


John Wright


A few days ago I let my mind out to wander, as I had nothing else important to do with it. It was a short and easy walk for my mind wasnít all that heavy with weighty subjects or brilliant ideas. Typically, that process causes little irritations or even opportunities to rise to my conscious level. On that occasion, I found myself returning to an old topic, one that surfaces every time I see individuals losing their grip on lifeís problems. The seemingly simple topic is how silly we are in failing to use all of our short time on Earth towards our growth and our happiness. You may be thinking, "why repeat the obvious," but do give me credit for enough intelligence to put a few new twists to that old challenge.

Hundreds of writers, perhaps thousands, have addressed the subject of death and how we should make the most of our time while we can. But it seems we donít listen very well. I suppose I should speak slowly and loudly and then all you folks who appear to speak another language would understand! Then I could repeat the message to myself, for I need it as much as you. Actually, I have no confidence in that approach. If other writers have communicated clearly, and they have, then we have a perception problem. That is, we hear but disagree internally in the name of either practical necessity in the present or commitment to some future life or afterlife.

There is but one counter argument I respect, and that is when someone ignores a larger truth because they are too busy trying to scratch out a life of subsistence. A chronically hungry belly and/or a cold place to sleep really are our prime motivators. Those of us who cannot claim extreme hunger or drastically uncomfortable circumstances, like living in a cardboard box in the winter, are not granted license to ignore the reality of our very temporary lives.

How serious is the problem of wasting time doing what we donít like, in the name of some vague goal or assumed responsibility? How serious is the problem of doing very few things that we do like? At this point I will not attempt to answer either question. Instead, I will digress and address the subject of the meaning of anything we do, when the end result is, as it always is, death.

Lets start with the two prime possibilities. Either there is or there is not an afterlife. If there is, some portion of this life may be reasonably spent in actions that might provide for a good afterlife. If there is not, all actions in this life are an end in themselves, except for the legacy we pass on to our progeny and the larger human community, prior to and after our death.

Path one, the afterlife approach, creates some level of schizophrenia, for we are presented with major ethical and moral problems opposite other members of our species and our very world, both of which we can honor or destroy. There is personality type one Ö the responsible, concerned human, who always thinks of others and his/her impact in their lives before acting. Then there is personality type two, who assumes a creator who controls all things making personal responsibility comparatively insignificant. Ergo, we are here to enjoy the gift without responsibility for the gift. Those who believe in an afterlife are caught in this inescapable trap, where they know not the true level of their personal responsibility to other humans or to our planet Earth. Thus we see all types of conflict and guilt, and disasters that have some human component and some that canít be attributed to human responsibility, and we are left confused.

The word sin is used often, complete with means for forgiveness. Actually, we are so imperfect that our appetites often exceed our value systems and we hurt each other and our environment. Thus, we confess and seek absolution. Nah! That leads nowhere. I cannot be responsible and ignorant and seeking forgiveness unless my deity is really twisted. I cannot accept a static view of me in which I do not grow in knowledge, freedoms and responsibilities.

Then we have those who do not believe in an afterlife Ö at least in the conventional sense. Now these people do have a major personal responsibility to know both what is best and to do that for the ongoing good of Humanity and all that Humanity depends on for survival. After all, if this is all we have, it is our job to nurture it. Or, perhaps our level of selfishness is so profound that we deny any responsibility for anything we do. Ergo, whatever is here is mine to enjoy regardless of consequences to others now or in the future. We do not seem to have any shortage of this type of person.

There is a special case, however, that does exist and is worthy of mention. I am talking about the humanitarian who may or may not be a believer in an afterlife. This individual does not need laws from a deity or from government to recognize that we are responsible to each other, to our planet and to our personal happiness, all at the same time. In this world, there is no schizophrenia. There is a heartfelt gratitude for life itself, and a commitment to making life the very best it can be for all. The core of that type of individual is pure in itself. Afterlife or no afterlife is an elective, not a definition of good or bad or a requirement for a person to be a considerate contributor to human advancement. Ignorance exists and it is the role of humans to get beyond it by their own initiative.

Now lets return to death and the two questions posed earlier. In the above three scenarios, only the last has good answers to how we should live our lives for maximum fulfillment without hurting each other or our environment. The value system is fundamentally the golden rule, while realizing that we cannot impress things on others simply because we want them for ourselves. Thus, if you hate your job, it is your duty to yourself to leave it, even if your standard of living diminishes. Yes, you may be responsible for and to your spouse and your children, but what is the depth of that responsibility? Basically, you must share burdens and you must eat. It is also important to have shelter with warmth when necessary. Other than that, your primary responsibility is to yourself and your happiness. In the best of circumstances, couples find shared happiness while they are being true to themselves as individuals. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, so we have divorce.

If you find happiness to be a dream as opposed to a reality, you have failed to understand your responsibility to yourself. Perhaps you have inadvertently taken on responsibility for the happiness of others to the denial of yourself. Perhaps you have become so caught up in the "importance" of your career that you undervalue both yourself and those closest to you. You may even have come from a background of so little happiness that you think it normal to be unhappy. Indeed, in the extreme case there are individuals who believe sought poverty to be a sign of their goodness and the path to happiness. Oh, my, are those people sick. We can, however, decide to achieve happiness through a balanced view of needs, rights and responsibilities, regardless of our background.

Our lives and our world are abundant with sources of happiness that do not hurt or help others, and we must seek our happiness first in order to be the best we can be for those we care about. Those people may be intimate family members or Humanity at large or anything in between. The essence of the idea is that we become our best for others and us when we accept responsibility for our own essential happiness Ö and then do something positive about it routinely.

It becomes rather obvious that gratitude for life and pursuit of happiness and knowledge via personal effort and the golden rule are wholesome and defensible against all other views of life. This attitude, as a key precept of Destiny, is the best basis from which to approach life, and therefore the best basis from which to consider death.

Okay, now lets come down from Mt. Olympus and address day to day living, in a world of ugly realities. Humans who wield power over other humans do not necessarily concern themselves with the happiness of their "employees." In other words they may not be humanitarian. This means the employees or subjects or whatever are individually and collectively responsible to halt behaviors of the powerful that unfairly impede the pursuit of happiness. This can be done in many ways without sacrificing income or being fired, like voting, but the required actions will sometimes be formally classified as criminal and sometimes construed as a rule violation that will, if discovered, lead to dismissal.

Lest you think of me as a scofflaw, let me remind you that there has never been anything done definitively to overthrow tyranny that has not resulted in the individual or individuals committing a crime or a severe rule violation, as defined by the people in power at that time. Our revolutionary heroes in the USA all began their individual and collective activities by violating British law. In short, they became criminals by definition in pursuit of higher goals that demanded some level of violence to be effective.

All individual actions and all collective actions to stop any form of tyranny, either by an individual, a company or a government, will be classified as criminal if they depart from carefully proscribed rules and laws created by and controlled by those in charge. It is the very fact that crime is defined so as to maintain the present power structure that it becomes impossible to be effective in instituting change without risking the committing of a crime or serious rule violation.

So it is that we have a difficult problem deciding when a life situation is bad enough to deserve ignoring certain laws or rules. Who among us is so certain of being right and justified when we are thwarted that intentional violation of law becomes a proper act? I certainly am not qualified to answer that question. I do know, however, that when larger groups of citizens or workers are materially damaged, the evidence is suddenly obvious, and the license to act implicit in the preservation of rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So now we proceed to the terrible possibility that criminal activity may be necessary.

A graded level of severity in approach is appropriate. First, it is essential to try to educate to promote humanitarian thinking on the part of the powerful individual or organization. If that fails, then the next step is to classify all individuals within a given hierarchy as basically good, basically neutral or basically bad. Those who are found to be chronically and constitutionally bad must be helped to fail. In other words their war on their subjects or employees or others outside their enterprise must be countered by the destruction of their capabilities.

This can also take many forms. It must be remembered, however, that the business or government must not be ruined in the process, for it is within those structures and within the general rule sets that we find organization, synergism and financial and physical security. In short, a decision to remove one or more individuals from power must be done with care and consideration. Also with a commitment to finality.

Divide and conquer is a very old and effective approach. This means, for example, that a targeted individual can be neutered either inside or outside the work environment. Some things, like murder, are simply not acceptable as the perpetrator violates a most fundamental human right in committing that act. What can be appropriate is to destroy the individualís sense of security by taking out such assets as an unoccupied home or a car, or periodically interrupting work flow severely with, for instance, lost documents or a malfunctioning computer. Yes, that can be defined as either focused terrorism or earned punishment. And some of it sounds childish, but it is not in terms of effectiveness. Even further, there should be only relief on the part of the perpetrator, and no sense of happiness. There must also be no warning and no evidence or claim of any responsibility. There must be no request of any type. External help may be required to keep those inside covered by alibis.

The goal, as ugly as it is, is to render the subject ineffective by causing such a high level of insecurity that they focus only on their immediate survival needs. Repetitive instances of attack will quickly undermine the individualís viability by producing paranoia. The seriousness and ugliness of severe actions like the example just given is not to be taken lightly. Mild or even strong dislike is not a valid reason to do anything to neuter another person. There must be plenty of incontrovertible evidence that the individual has actively and purposely made decisions knowing that those who report to the individual or those outside the individualís direct control will be materially ruined or be forced into a life of servitude, or worse.

All of us have the right to the pursuit of happiness without the right to harm each other. Your use of your life to use well the time that you do have may well depend on the equivalent goodwill of those to whom you report. Hopefully, each of us will, when necessary, change employment or emigrate rather than seek a destructive resolution. But the simple truth is that there are life situations when a person who has ascended to a position of power must be forcibly brought down. Think of it as a most unhappy but necessary event allowed only after many opportunities for the individual to alter beliefs and negative behaviors.

Why would I of all people ever advocate criminal behavior? The reason is that the negative behavior of the subject may be protected by law, allowing that person to commit larger and repetitive unfair actions against other people without being stopped. In short, no system of law has ever existed that provides dependable fairness or any resemblance of equality, for it is the allowed actions as opposed to the formal laws that determine reality. Plus, good systems of laws are constantly changed to meet the wants of the powerful, and also interpreted to their advantage. Thus it is periodically necessary for the citizens who comprise an enterprise to weed out the worst of the power mongers, who use and create the laws and rules that allow them to destroy the lives of their subjects or employees.

The concepts of rule of law and representative democracy and hierarchical power are extremely important and not to be violated lightly. Indeed, circumstances that require extreme behavior as described above should be rare. The point is that those circumstances become rare to the point of extinction when powerful people exercise balanced judgment and consider the rights and the right to the pursuit of happiness of/by all people. Sometimes they have to be reminded to do that.

It is only when historical circumstance changes in a most negative way that we must take a hard look at the causes. If they are found to be too far from humanitarian considerations then we must attempt to use all legal means to correct the problem. If, however, those means fail or are unavailable, then we exercise our fundamental right as individuals to correct the system by whatever means are necessary. For example, some of Hitlerís own army staff plotted his necessary assassination. Their failure was not my point. What they did was take personal responsibility to violate the law on behalf of a higher goal.

Yes, you do need to realize that there is something higher than the existing set of laws. This is true because ability to upgrade or eliminate bad laws may not exist at a practical level. There can be higher goals than those expressed in the laws and especially in the practice of enforcing those laws. This is a true and serious problem for the thinking person who wants to have a system of laws in place to assure fairness, and who wants people at large to respect the laws to avoid social chaos.

Ultimately, you cannot be responsible for your happiness unless you have freedom to pursue it. But if you do, there is no excuse for ever bringing down another human. You are responsible for yourself and to yourself before all other considerations. You are then responsible to promote all endeavors that provide for all people to be able to seek happiness through dedication and hard work and free choice. In short, you are first an individual and only then a part of a larger whole, so you must first take care of yourself.

If you keep these thoughts in mind, you will use your life such that death considerations become minor, for you will have lived in the fullest sense. You will have respected other peopleís rights, you will have loved and laughed, and rarely you will have kicked ass without regret. You will take the time and the opportunity to get your ticket punched all through your life in many ways and you will approach death with both peace of mind and mild curiosity about what might lie beyond.

What you will avoid is a life of slavery either to those alive at your time in history or to some interpretation of some deityís will that steals your time and ruins your individuality. All you need to remember is the golden rule, your responsibility to take care of yourself, and your right to take individual action to bring down those who would destroy others rights to the pursuit of happiness.

Finally we return to the central topic of this article. We are creatures of life, not creatures of death. The only things we know for certain are those that we sense now. There may or may not be an afterlife. So it is that your primary method to approach that which you do sense is to make the most of it for your happiness. As we cannot change the past, we must focus on the present with an eye towards the future. Donít waste the small amount of time you do have as an indentured servant to either deities or wealthy humans, or to your own poor sense of self. You can work within a system to earn your living and pay your taxes, but you cannot let the system own you at any level.

If you learn that simple point you will live a life in which death is relegated to the category of an eventual necessary irrelevance, which it is at this time in history. You will not allow unhappiness to exist for very long when it does occur in your life, for your primary responsibility is to yourself and your happiness. As to required actions, the choices are yours to make. And you donít really have all that much time to do it all.

I leave you with a parting consideration. Think of it as a homework assignment. At this time in history we have so conquered the physical world that we can feed and house all humans comfortably, if we so choose. Automation has almost eliminated the need for manual and most white-collar labor. We simultaneously have a situation in the USA today where most people are being forced to return to the bad old days of the early 20th century when a 12 hour workday was common, just to have job security and make ends meet. These two contrasting realities speak to something being drastically wrong. You figure out what it is, then think about it and decide what you need to do. I think, perhaps, it affects your happiness. Here is a hint Ö in some near future world people are not valued or compensated based on their essentiality in producing goods or providing common services, as both are fully automated. Is it time for a paradigm shift in our entire perception of reward gained for product produced or service provided?

I find this article to be controversial as part of it steps into territory that borders on anarchy. But even that is questionable when we look at the actions of our forefathers in the creation of our country. Anarchy is not defensible because of our individual experiential, perceptual and intellectual limitations, but we are not altogether stupid either. We do know and understand when others or us as part of a group are being unreasonably and intentionally manipulated and damaged. Then, as Emeril says, "Its time to kick it up a notch." Now go do your homework.