At some point in life, one comes to the realization that things do not have an intrinsic meaning or quality. Nothing is inherently good or bad. We may first learn this when we chase something we want and after failing enough times we give up and chase something else. We then remember the first thing we were chasing and recognize that that thing doesn’t matter as much anymore.
It doesn’t matter anymore because we stopped making it matter.
At some level of awareness, we know this, or have experienced this. The problem is that we live as if some goal or person or event or thing is inherently good, and as a result, we want that thing.
I’m not that old but I’ve seen people three times my age on the pursuit of happiness. I was right there with them. I know the path well. It’s a roundabout. It’s a cul-de-sac. It leads nowhere.
Allow me to digress a bit, because it is pivotal that we understand that nothing has any built-in meaning. It is why two people can look at someone, listen to an album, hear a philosophical argument or read a book and have different reactions.
People don’t like this. They want to be the ones who follow the right religion (or no religion), who appreciate the best art and have the correct political standpoint. After exploring four religions, acknowledging artists ranging from The Smiths to 6ix9ine and oscillating from liberal to conservative to moderate, I can say it’s all worthwhile. But a lot of people will turn up their nose at me for even contemplating anything other than Christianity, will judge me for tuning my hear to the wildings of Tekashi and laugh at finding anything of value in Conservatism.
I pretty much have nothing of value for them in this article.
For everyone else, have you ever wondered why you like one thing over another? It has to do with your environment, yes, but it also has to do with you as an individual and your unique expression in the world. This is why it is laughable to condemn others. They aren’t you, and you aren’t them! It’ll be pretty hard not to judge them, though. After all, judgment is really just you showcasing what you value, whether in the presence of what you value or what you don’t.
But when it comes to the things we value, the basic mechanics of it is that we think that if we were to have this good thing, that we will feel good. “This job/person/trait/event is a good job/person/trait/event, so I want it and by having it, I will feel good. I will be happy.” This is what we subconsciously think.
The truth, however, is that these things aren’t good because they are inherently good. They are good because you think or decided that they were good.
This has been my twenties in a nutshell: I must chase this goal or person because I bestowed on them positive attributes. What’s more, I don’t have these positive attributes, and so I must achieve this goal or get with this person so as to have these traits I lack.
I wanted to be with girls for all sorts of reasons. For example, one was more logical, another was more extroverted and another was more helpful. But in interacting with them, I realized that not only was I logical, extroverted and helpful already, but I saw their own emotional, introverted and self-serving side.
I wanted to create things that people would value. I had that goal since 2008 (and possibly before then) but it’s ten years later and only now do I feel like I’m doing exactly that. I had been putting in work all along but never felt like I was contributing. It wasn’t until this year that I simply decided that I was valuable. It no longer mattered if people didn’t like what I wrote. I only do what I value anyway.
“If the quality is projected onto the object, then where is the quality actually residing? In the projector.” — GP Walsh
I made a fundamental error. It was never that I lacked any trait. I had those traits all along. I was the one who projected the traits I already had into external stuff, goals or other people. And this is why happiness cannot be found externally. You would have to be the one to judge that external thing as good. But if you judge it as good, then you would have to be the one who is good to then call something else good.
This even applies to people who walk the spiritual path. We want to be enlightened because we judge it as good and we have images of people sitting in peace or smiling or whatever. Unfortunately, we make enlightenment into this external thing that, once again, we already are. We try to feel good by getting something we judge as good. We want to get this condition that cuts through illusion, when we already are the ones who see through illusion!
Some of us don’t take the spiritual route because they have no interest in sitting in lotus pose and focusing on their breath. Some don’t walk the spiritual path because it is, either by nature or nurture, not something they value. Spiritual folk get the notion that the material world isn’t going to make them happy, but they make spirituality into an external goal anyway. We can’t help it. It’s how we were wired.
What this also means is that the things you are trying to avoid are not intrinsically bad either. You project those negative qualities onto other things and people, in your attempt to make sure you do everything in your power to be happy.
This news comes as a relief! It means that I don’t have to keep trying to figure out which partner to be with, which job to take or which candy to buy. I was failing at all that anyway. It’s not that all options are the same, but no option will cause me to be happy. You will enjoy some aspects of any thing in life and also sometimes experience the downside of other aspects.
But having addressed all of this and seeing that you are the source of your happiness, how do you choose what to do and who to do it with? Well you would now be without the fear of making a bad choice, (because you’re not worried about maximizing happiness and minimizing pain) which liberates you to be free to make whatever choice you want.
Now it doesn’t matter what choice you make. You simply do what you innately feel to do. Whether it works out or not based on your intention won’t matter if you never mistake that happiness was never going to be found in stuff anyway.