Thursday, April 12, 2012

Unsubscribed: An Unapologetic Pursuit of Happiness

     Last night, I had a vivid dream that my tongue discovered a hairline fracture in one of my front teeth, very close to the gumline. The initial discovery of the slightly wiggly tooth was accompanied by a state of disbelief and mild panic, and the tooth itself was quite long, much different from the way my incisors look in real life. I don't know how the tooth broke. It seemed to be clinging to itself, trying not to break off completely. What I was most worried about in the dream was the time interval I knew I was facing, waiting for the tooth to be replaced. It wasn't fixable. I remember looking into a mirror, knowing that although the tooth looked deceptively normal from a distance, it was only hanging by a thread. Considering the fact that I've spent a lot of time recently, contemplating abstruse concepts like detachment, letting go, and impermanence, this dream came as no surprise. Just like my tooth, I'm dropping out.
     I'm not sure if it was the dream that motivated me, but this morning, I unsubscribed from nearly every list of political, cause-related, and shopping e-mails I receive. The shopping e-mails were easy: I'm not much of a shopper. I buy what I need, if and when I need it. This is probably one reason why I'm not good at using coupons, although now that I'm only working part-time, I may have to re-evaluate their utility. The political and cause-related sources of e-mail go a little deeper. For years, I've received almost daily updates from Move.On.org, Credo Action, and NRDC, probably as the result of a number of petitions I've signed. I'm tired of being yelled at, having my awareness raised, stirred to respond, and constantly nudged into action. I feel like I'm in boot camp. It's not that I don't care about these issues, but being an armchair activist just isn't my bag. Social networking is inundated with call-to-action organizations: left-wing, right-wing, radical, liberal, conservative, and every flavor in between. Every time I log onto Facebook, I'm urged to "do" something. Despite their seemingly diverse focuses, these organizations all have something in common. They all promote an agenda. Regardless of the issue at hand, they all employ some form of manipulation, usually through shocking videos or poignant photography, to gain support. I'm not sure what they really accomplish, aside from further divisiveness and polarization among the susceptible public. If we're not alarmed, we're labeled as superficial or apathetic. After all, we're being told what things we should think about and how we should think about them, so it's really a no-brainer, right? We're encouraged to spread awareness, to elevate others to our same level of concern, and to make sure everyone knows how committed we are to Cause X, Y, or Z, all from the comfort of our own homes.
     I'm not dissing activists. I maintain a modicum of respect for people who believe passionately enough in their causes to organize fund-raisers and protests, the real grass-rootsers, so to speak, especially if their passion comes from the heart. I'm just not one of them. In the scheme of things, my opinions aren't important enough to bother people with. I quietly support research on treatments for cystic fibrosis and breast cancer through monthly donations, make a monthly pledge to NPR, and donate yearly to my national and state-level anesthesia political action committees, as well as physicians for national health care; that's the extent of my involvement. Anyone who knows me has a pretty good idea of where I stand on the major issues. I don't feel the need to engage in debate about my core values. I don't enjoy talking about politics or religion; there are much more interesting things to talk about. I suspect that there are lots of people attached to causes because they're in dire need of an identity, or as a way to project their emotions. I'm not a fan of black versus white; there are two or three or four sides to every issue. Identifying strongly with a cause is admirable in many ways, but it also carries the risks of intolerance to opposing views, emotions masquerading as truth or reason, and tunnel-vision, making a zealous liberal indistinguishable from a fanatic conservative. In the end, actions always end up speaking louder than words. Passionately enjoying life is the really the only kind of activism that holds any interest for me. I've reached a point in life where I feel very connected, alive, and compassionate with a detached sense of awareness, and I'm going with it. Happiness is transformative and contagious. Although being happy for ourselves is pretty amazing, being happy for the happiness of others is even more rewarding. Everyone deserves to be happy, but it's a personal choice. I suppose happiness is my agenda, and I don't need a subscription to pursue it. I can't change the world, nor do I wish to. It has a way of changing itself. In the meantime, I'll keep doing my part to enjoy the time I have here. Now, that's a contribution that won't cost me a cent.

8 comments:

  1. Whoa. Weird dream! (just had to say that)

    I understand why you unsubscribed yourself from all of those political emails. No matter how good the cause is, many do tug a little too hard and the heart strings (and/or pocket strings), which can really wear a person out.

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    1. very weird dream! i've had that dream before. being unsubscribed feels really liberating!

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  2. I too have left my days of campaign work behind me. I still support the same causes but my time is precious and growing even more precious as I age. I'm no longer willing to respond to calls to action and drop everything and everyone while I tilt at windmills.

    Living a life in line with my core values means my agenda has become one of living my life purposefully by focusing on what's positive, and making the happiness choice between my ears whenever I can.

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    1. TT, sounds like a great way to live! :-)

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  3. Hi Kris! The last paragraph here really spoke to me in many ways. You write very eloquently and convincingly, and it is very true that "happiness is transformative and contagious". A little sunshine goes a long way. I have been slow at the blogging world, but it feels great to re-visit your part of the blogosphere...Cheers!

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    1. great to hear from you, SprigBlossoms! hope you and your family are doing well!

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  4. Kris, welcome to the wonderful world of dropouts. In third grade, I started writing "Happiness" on all my school notebooks. My course was set, and I've never looked back.

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    1. NP, your pursuit of happiness is a constant source of inspiration for me.

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