Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How to Experience the Joy of Living?

Joy of Living

One of the major complaints I've heard about being alive is the pain of loneliness. In this day and age, many people live isolated lives of quiet desperation. They go to work in the morning, come back in the evening, heat up a microwave dinner, switch on the TV, stone for two hours, drink some alcohol, maybe surf the Internet, then fall asleep. In the past, it was not easy for a person to lead an isolated lifestyle. Everything we needed to survive had to come through interaction with other people. For example, buying bread from the baker, meat from the butcher… in the past, there were no huge supermarkets where you could do all your grocery shopping in silence; quietly comparing prices by yourself. You had to talk to different people to get what you need. This might be a lame example but its rather obvious that the increase in convenience also increases our separation from others. Do any of you talk to the guy at the checkout counter? You could complete the entire transaction in silence if you wanted to. Just nod your head, pay your money and go. In the past, there were also no fancy computer games, no Xbox, PlayStation, or the Internet to feed your entertainment needs. If you wanted fun, you'd have to play a game with others. Whether it's a table game like Chess or Scrabble, or a physically active one like the Kampong (village) game, chaptek, where players do kicking stunts with a flat rubber shuttlecock. When you were young in school, I'm sure you played many such games with your friends during recess period or after school. But as we age, many of us lose touch of this precious joy that comes from group games and sport. It's just all about work, money, and survival.

There are good reasons why you should shut off your TV and gather your friends for a game or two. The church of Christ understands this principle well. They call it fellowship. Cell group leaders will take the effort to organize group activities, outings, games, discussions, pot luck dinners and more. Friends can bring new friends — the more the merrier. In my opinion, they are doing a great job of helping people experience the joy of being together. This is a condition you should try to create in your life. Whether you want to join a fellowship organization, a special interest group, a book club, a school alumni, or simply call up old friends, every one of us needs to work at reconnecting ourselves with others. Especially when you live in a world designed to convenience you into separation and isolation.

You see, you don't need a lot of money to be happy. Many people think they can only be happy with the lifestyle of the rich and famous. They want to jet-set around the world, have non-stop sex with a harem of harlots, swim in the opulent blue pools of Miami and such. Now as fantastic as that sounds, there are many rich people who are experiencing loneliness in life. They think everyone around them is just there for their money and nobody really loves them for who they are. The old saying is, 'it gets lonely at the top'. And these people at the top of the pyramid are experiencing their disconnection from the rest of the world. So you see, the problem is the same. What they lack and what we lack, is love. And money can't buy love. It takes an investment of your time, energy, and emotions, to build up fruitful relationships.

If you consider that every one of us is a soul animating a physical body, then on a spiritual level, we are all connected because all spirit emanates from the same source — God. (When I speak of God, I mean so in the universal sense as a higher power and not biased to a particular religious order.) As 'children' of God, we are here to explore and express the beauty of life. Thus the magic is hidden in our interaction. Spending time to know others can help you learn more about yourself. That is the higher purpose of the Big Bang — why God split himself up into the infinite number of stars and souls which inhabit this universe — to know thyself; to know himself. Because even for God, infinity is a lonely place to be if He's by himself. So He opened himself up to the Universe within, which is why there is you and me, and we are all part of something greater, part of a whole, and we must not be afraid to explore ourselves; explore each other. And this is done not in isolation, but by getting out there and interacting with others. For such is the purpose we are created. To explore and experience everything, including the gamut of human emotions — the good and bad, right and wrong, the seven sins and the ten commandments — we go through it all. So some people ask why does God allow people to suffer? Why are there 3 billion people living on less than $2 a day? This is not God's fault… this our fault. Too many people only think of taking, keeping, getting more, and hoarding in order to create the opulent, luxurious lifestyle they think will give them unlimited pleasure. So in a country where we gorge ourselves on burgers, porn, pizza, spa massage, horror movies, celebrity gossip, computer gadgets and more, there are people who scrape rotting meat off leftover fish bones from the factory to fry and eat as a daily meal. This is not a problem for God to fix because He is an observer. If the social condition bothers us, then we should find it in our hearts to reverse our Taking mindset and focus on how we can give to others. Now some people say, "What if I give and give and nobody gives back?" I say, this is a good excuse people give themselves for being greedy; an excuse to relieve themselves of the guilt of wanting to take but not to share. Such a person is driven by a pleasure-seeking mindset and has not learnt the joy of helping others. Their ego is screaming, "I, Me, Mine! I Want, I Have, My Precioussss… ."

When you play games with others, you learn the importance of sharing and taking turns; offering others encouragement, complimenting their efforts; building camaraderie and deeper bonds. You learn about the joy of giving to others, the joy of competition, and the joy of fellowship that money can't buy. Everything we enjoy — food, sex, money, fun, friendship, social approval, and more — comes from other people. Loneliness and boredom happens when we isolate ourselves; thinking that this is the norm when it is actually an abnormality of the human condition. So now is the time to experience joie de vivre (joy of life) by reaching out and connecting with others. Rid yourself of those old isolation policies and start trading with other people. You'll find that the magic of living is found in connecting your heart to others around you. Touch the spirit in every person.

February 10th, 2008 by Lance Ong


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