Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Trip to Bordeaux and External Happiness
This past weekend, my faithful travel companion and I went once more to Bordeaux, this time with the intention of staying overnight so that we can finally attend church service in the morning.
The trip, like the ferris wheel that we rode while we were there, was a steady cycle of ups and downs. Upon arriving we checked into the Hotel facing the train station, Le Regina. It turned out to be rather nice and only a little more expensive than both of us getting a room at the hostel.
Other high points: Took some neat pictures of the city, got to explore a bit on my own and I took a power nap on a bench in front of a the Cathedral of..Saint Andre I believe. The Ferris Wheel was fun as well, getting to see the city from a bird's eye view..or at least a carnie's eye view. Plus: Ice cream shoppe!
Also, we made it to church, as I said, and I got to meet some friendly faces among the members of the ward there.
On external happiness:
How possible is it, realistically, to keep external factors from influencing your own happiness? Is it simply a matter of distancing yourself from the negative influence? Sometimes just walking away from the irritant is enough to maintain your own good mood. But what if you cannot do that? Can you create a forcefield of 'good vibrations' that keep out negative influence simply from positive thinking? It sounds very 60's era flower child, but most so called experts insist that you are ultimately the one responsible for your mood, and no one (or nothing) else.
The kingdom of Butan recently created a statistic called Gross National Happiness that is said to measure the amount of happiness the average citizen feels, as well as the collective happiness of the country. The United States has a similar statistic which tracks monetary wealth. We still believe in the pursuit of happiness, but in the western mindset, material wealth, even living above the poverty line, is an important factor contributing to the happiness of a population. In the more Eastern philosophy of Bhuddist Butan, wealth does not seem to enter into the equation.
Every liberal arts major in America would probably want to side with Butan on this one, but I have to wonder if its realistic to discount external factors like hardship, poverty, difficult times as having a significant effect on a person's happiness. If happiness comes solely from within, that implies that a person can be happy anywhere, and in any situation, given enough mastery of self. If external factors do apply, suddenly mastery of self is not enough. You must be willing to change the unpleasant situation. You must find a solution, be it as simple as walking away from the offending situation or working to overcome it.
Mulling this over, I believe that happiness does come from within, but it must be protected from without. Externalities can damage your sense of well being as surely as acid rain corrodes a cathedral. While a positive attitude can be maintained for at least some time, if you insist on ignoring the problem, eventually it will falter and even a seemingly bottomless pool of patience will run dry. Like the shields on the Millenium Falcon, a good attitude is not meant as a long term solution, merely something to buy you time while you escape those pesky TIE fighters into hyperspace.