Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happiness For All - The Utopian Dream

Humankind has always ached for a world of happiness and comfort; a life with no pain, only pleasure. The Garden of Eden is one of many such stories told in all cultures, because life on earth is very hard. It's filled with discomfort, disappointment, loss, hardship, pain, and death.

People used to know how to suffer, and many mastered the art of suffering within their lifetimes. Yes, there is an art to it, and if we master it our lives become immensely richer and more meaningful. Mastering suffering guarantees you won't become bitter, angry, and broken by it.

Consider what happens to people who "have it all", and how often they wind up addicted, alone, and ruined. The truth is we can handle only so much pleasure before it becomes dull and boring, cloying, as when we have too much sugar. Sweetness can be awful in large quantities. Anything we desire can become too familiar, and too tedious to endure. Truth is, we thrive on change. Morning becomes evening, cold becomes warmth, heat becomes cool over time. Poverty can lead us to wealth, and wealth never lasts forever. A great sage once said, "Failure isn't fatal, and success isn't final". The only permanent thing in life is change. This is its rhythm.

If we never suffered we would never know real pleasure or joy. Pain and loss hollow us out and put us in touch with the depths of our souls, so that pleasure will be greater when it returns. This is one of the major purposes of our lives, to grow in understanding and the capacity to experience joy. And love. "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return." Joy, pain, love, and death all must be lived through and experienced in the deep recesses of our souls.

But there are evil people abroad in the world now who are trying to convince us that we are entitled to pleasure, and pleasure alone. That life can be painless, foolproof, and safe. If our lives are not full, it's because "the rich" have stolen from us. If we do not have abundance, then we have been wronged.  Cheated out of our rightful due.

This idea is promulgated by Marxists/Socialists today, and it's once again bringing ruin - as it always does - to every nation that embraces it. The socialist European Union is collapsing before our eyes, and America is not far behind if the present path is maintained. Russia and China both had to abandon their utopian ideals when they were on the brink of collapse.

Utopian plans are inevitably a fraud. Human nature has changed very little in two thousand years, and all successful systems of governance take into account the base motives of people. Ideally the use them to advantage, as Adam Smith showed in the 18th Century with his book on free market economics. It's a proven fact that greed and desire can be harnessed for the good of all, and they are in fact a mainspring of creativity when they are channeled through good education. Without wisdom, no system of government will work. We're facing a wisdom deficit now, greater than our economic ones. Wisdom teaches us to live in the real world and reject childish things.

The Middle East is in the middle of bloody revolution largely because it has wasted the last 750 years trying to recapture the Islamic Caliphate, a supposed Golden Age of pleasure they once enjoyed. The Caliphate may have been real for a time, but it collapsed for reasons that lie in the human heart; the pride that makes us believe we are masters of the world.

We are not. There is a vastly more powerful force that rules us all. We will see it directly.