When I was a kid I remember my grandmother looking around at the affluence, yet dissatisfaction in society saying that people had lost touch with reality and needed to experience what war was like. In the 1940s she’d been a refuge in England with two small kids.
At the time, I got her point but didn’t realize the implications of what she was saying. As I grow older I realize that, sadly, most people only feel really alive when tragedy strikes, when death looms around the corner, and appreciative when we’ve either lost everything or close to loosing everything. We all know the stories; a man diagnosed with cancer realizes how fortunate he is to be alive etc etc.
Take the Stockholm terrorist attacks for instance when a truck careened down a busy, pedestrian shopping street killing dozens of people. Despite the terrible event, reports came in with how transformed people were by it. People drove perfect strangers to their destinations, opening doors to offer a warm meal to those stranded in a commute etc. Peoples warmth, empathy was reported as if it was an anomaly in what’s typically a busy, anonymous, self-aware and cosmopolitan city. One person even said that “I wish we were like this always”. Another said “Finally we look up from ourselves and see each-other”.
What scares me the most therefore is the idea that the closest to true happiness most people ever experience is associated with tragedy. The reason it’s scary is that people might even therefore subconsciously welcome tragedy and drama on all scales, personal as well as national, or global – as some form of twisted purge by which they will feel truly alive.
We all know people who create drama to distract themselves from what would be a utterly meaningless and frightening existence. We seek out drama, we hurt, we tear down, we start conflict and wars because it’s the only way we know how to feel grateful, alive and ultimately rapturous.
What I think most enlightened beings on this earth, Jesus, Buddha as well as Muhammed, tried to teach humanity was that there’s another way to joy, peace and happiness that doesn’t involve pain, misery and tragedy – “hacking” joy (if so will), peace and happiness before tragedy either strike, or we subconsciously invite it.
That’s the idea that scares me the most that it might actually be true.