Monday, April 15, 2013

On Happiness and Sustainability - Inglorious Bastards of My Writing

It's April. A few things happen around this time of the year: my birthday, a steady reminder that I'm getting older; tax-day, a not so friendly reminder of things to do and bills to pay; and remembering Tiananmen, a constant crack of my brain on the walls of my sublime hope that one day we will be free of transgressions against our own.  

In light of these dark and depressing things surrounding the time of the year, April is not all that bad. Grass is beginning to bud from the rain-soaked lands, flowers can be seen from a distant; the constant bird-songs in early mornings serve-up a reminder that summer will soon follow, women will show a lot of skin, and children will invariably get sun burned from hours and hours of soaking in the fun.

So this is a time to be happy as it is an inglorious bastard of my writing.


I grew up without knowing to desire happiness. Happiness was natural, it was given; it was something I possessed without a doubt. I climbed trees, tossed water balloons, and frequently clambered rocky surfaces without a cause—without reservations.

Happiness was natural then. Inhibition was limited to my physique. These days, however, I worry about a whole host of other things, mundane and meaningless things; not to mention my knees are bummed and my back strained.

I started writing to discover the heights again. My grammar was terrible, so part of the reason I went to law school was so that I could learn to write in better ways. It has helped, but just being a good mechanic does not guarantees good substance for me to explore. I began to write about sustainability to get a better perspective of what it is that I wanted to say. And in the past three years, I’ve learned much and I’ve written quite a bit. Sometimes I mimic genre that I don’t understand, please accept my apologies; and sometimes I write without rhyme or reason, but I make no excuse for experimenting. Recently, I discussed the lack of identity of my writing with my wife. In part, I believe, I am confused about the definition of sustainability but in part, I know my lack of identity in writing is invariably attributed to the growing process that must take place. Even if I had a good issue presented in sustainability, a good grasp on how to analyze the issue, my exploration is incomplete. I am left to explore how to broaden my scope and limit the focus so that in talking about sustainability I can help make it a bit more relevant and attractive; a bit more sexy if you will. The only way to do that is to make some sort of progress. Otherwise I’m just spinning in circles.

It was the Dalai Lama who said happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions. Over the years, I’ve learned that the most beautiful things, the things that have that inner appeal to be attractive and sexy, are made not by virtue of its awe but by the efforts that have gone into it. The end result parades progress and it is the battered and calloused hands that will display hard work and virtue that a pair of silken soft ones could not possibly compare.

To render happiness effective, then, we must act to make it so. The connection to sustainability is obvious then, isn’t it? If we must DO something to change our world to be more sustainable, we must do them every day. Don’t we? If we must do something every day to make our world more sustainable, whether it is buying local, turning off a switch, or buying one less gadget, then we ought to do them because it will make us happy. Otherwise we miss the point about living sustainably—that it is a continuation, ongoing, and there is no point to continue something if it does not make us happy. The same can be said of happiness. If we must do something every day to make ourselves happy, whether it is writing a short paragraph or giving thanks to another, we ought to do them because they are in our best interest and forwardly compatible with our hopes and dreams.

Obvious, isn’t it? But it must be our own actions. It must matter to us. It must exhibit efforts. In essence, it must make us happy in order for us to further it and continue it indefinitely thereby making it sustainable. If we were doing our tasks to thank, savor, give, and aspire for someone else’s happiness entirely, then we’ve put our faith in altruism so completely; and when the mundane things in our lives take over, we forget altruism so quickly. Don’t we?

So, I decided that happiness is a natural progression to converge my wife’s interest in motivation with my interest in sustainability science and the altruism naturally associated with it. And in mounting my activities to cope with my control of happiness and my goal of transforming how people conceptualize sustainability, I realized the two are the same. In choosing to be sustainable, we unfailingly choose to be happy; and in that sense of engaging in the activity of happiness, the amorphous definition of sustainability becomes irrelevant—what we do matters, not how we define things.

Writing about sustainability is my task. You must discover your own. Once you do, you must put forth effort to make it beautiful and appealing so that you will return to it day after day. In the end, perhaps we will meet. I will have written much more on how to be happy and live sustainably; you will have done what you must to be happy and eventually find your way to find reasons to continue your purposeful existence indefinitely.

Just remember, to learn to fly you must jump first; building your wings is a task you must perform on your way down.

Happy April.

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