I live in Berkeley, California, which is pretty much ground zero for liberal philosophy, socialist ideology, and progressive thought in general. Yet, I see so many Berkeley residents living lavish, decadent lives while putting up what seems like little more than a front of caring for the less fortunate. Perhaps they occasionally volunteer somewhere, or dash off a check to a charity now and then, but by and large they live selfishly. I remember the patrons (and managers) at Fizzy’s former workplace who saw nothing wrong with spending $100 on a thermos or $80 on a dustpan. In fact, they seemed to revel in doing so, almost as if they needed to flaunt their wealth and supposed good taste as some misguided way of publicly defining their self-worth. And all the while they espoused the politically correct, “goodwill to fellow man” rhetoric that every self-respecting Berkeley liberal knows by heart. It seemed to be no better than lip service, but no one ever called them out on it.
I don’t pretend for a moment that I am any better. Of course, I don’t have the income of the people I am chastising, but if I did, I wonder how I would behave. Knowing my frugal and bashful nature, I doubt I’d spend money on conspicuous consumption, but doesn’t mean I would rival Mother Teresa were I suddenly to strike it rich. As it stands now, I don’t do much more than the occasional good deed. I volunteered for a time at the San Francisco Food Bank, but that was years ago. Pretty much the extent of my charitable efforts and contributions is whatever money I give to beggars, which can’t amount to more than a few dollars per week on average. Even without a massive bank account, I know I could still do better. In short, I’m no better than the folks I chastise for hypocrisy.
What you ask, prompted me to consider all this stuff? Well, as it happens, the closest residential parking to my apartment is adjacent to the infamous tract of land known as People’s Park. Because of this, I have come to know quite a few of the homeless people who spend their time hanging out at the park. One in particular, Lisa, has taken quite a liking to me. I once bought her a hot dog at Top Dog, and ever since she chats with me. Usually it’s just idle chit chat, but she has asked me a few times now to bring her some fried chicken. Yesterday I was on my way home, and knew I’d be parking by the park, so I made a quick detour to Colonel Sanders’ and bought a 20-piece bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Sure enough, Lisa was at the park when I arrived.
I wasn’t prepared for the reaction. I knew they’d be happy to get it– who wouldn’t be happy? It’s fried chicken! but the outpouring of love and gratitude shocked me. Several people hugged me. I was just glad to feed them, but they seemed to see it as more than just that, which is was what set my mind to thinking on this topic.
I realized something yesterday. Happiness is not something I can find within myself. No amount of logic or rational thought is going to provide me with the key to personal satisfaction. Since youth I have been of the opinion that the key to my happiness is centered around finding my place in this universe, and understanding how I can make the lives of those around me better. It’s about interaction, not solitude. For most of my life, I’ve been able (by circumstance or effort I can’t say with certainty) to stay happy. I’ve seldom even thought about the matter– I’ve just been content with life, and felt I was on a path towards satisfaction and success. Lately, I don’t feel that way at all. Instead, I feel more than a little bit lost. I can’t seem to figure out what I’m supposed to do now, or next, and I don’t quite understand my role in life anymore. I think that is the key right there– when I again feel I have a purpose or goal for which to strive, I think I’ll fall back into my naturally happy rhythm.
I’ve been moping and soul-searching for a couple months now. Along the way I’ve improved myself. I’ve identified and corrected many personal character flaws heretofore unbeknownst to me, and I’m working on fixing others. I still have a long way to go; I’m far from “better,” but I’m doing my best to change that. This seems like the time for it– what better time to focus on self-enrichment and personal growth than while I feel sidelined by life? Hopefully before long I’ll get back into a nice groove, and be a better person than I was before. And hopefully I won’t post anymore rambling, introspective blogs like this! Apologies!