"If it's not fun, why do it?"

Posts tagged ‘Pleasure’

Happiness is My Choice, 14

With all the noise and clatter of today’s world, the incessant advertisements and social pressures, the still small voice of the authentic self—our souls—can be easily drowned out. We are sensual beings, experiencing the world through our skins.

Red Maple. © JustHavingFun

Listening to birdsong can lift my heart if I allow myself to pause, and recognize the miracle that it is. Birdsong is a gift. How can it be? A creature the size of my fist has the power to fill the air with song! Birds have a syrinx, a special organ to produce that multi-note trilling. We don’t have them. Do we lack?

What about the cricket song symphony of a summer’s afternoon? How is it that stridulations of an insect’s limb or wing, multiplied by a thousand, can blanket the air with sound? If I stop what I’m doing, I realize they are singing. It’s only in my silence that I hear their songs.

What message do the lightning bugs encode in their evening travels? I’ve watched them shape the dark with Morse code-like flashes. Their travels define a unit of space, their paths as distinct as a fingerprint; their flashes stutter a secret pattern as they fly through the night. To think as a child I trapped them in jars, quieting their dialogues forever.

And flowers, oh the abundance of flowers! Colors, textures, scents, foliage. From early spring to the beginning of winter, these bursts of color elicit deep sensations.

Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas. © JustHavingFun

When I desist from my busyness and resist the lure of my phone, screen, kitchen, and bed, I turn to the sky. The moon in her brilliance, the clouds in their majesty, the rustling of the wind in the trees gain my attention. My soul gets nourished by nature’s caress. My authentic self can breathe a bit deeper and savor the sensations.

Happiness doesn’t come from things. Rather, it’s events, experiences we share—or not. I relish simple pleasures like breathing deeply in fresh air, feeling heat prickles when I enter my car in summer,  the sound and feeling of snow crunching underfoot, the breeze ruffling the fine hair on my arms—things I notice when I’m not distracted.

I recall the scent of peonies and the fuzz on that juicy peach tickling my nose. The sounds of trains rattling down nearby tracks stitch through the night’s darkness. And the succulent sourness of a fresh-cut lemon puckers my lips. These pleasures have been described in ancient literature and we can still relate to them. They rely on nothing save our senses taking in the beauty of the world. They  speak to my soul, refreshing it, and bringing it back safe to this body for another day.

Simple pleasures? Yes.

Universal? Yes, oh yes!

When Is A Job Not A Job?

Watch Gears

The Gears are at the Heart of the Work

Question: When is a job not a “job”?

Answer: When the job is doing something you love.

I recently re-entered the work force. I found a job that will not be a “job” but a labor of love, working at a social service agency. The co-workers are pleasant, the hours great, clients interesting, and it’s a meaningful job. The organization aids needy people and therefore betters the world. That’s a good foundation for a labor of love. I’m one little tooth on the gears in the mechanism that makes the agency work more effectively. That’s me!

I’m glad to have a place to go every day and contribute something positive. I can change someone’s day just with a happy greeting; I can ease stress with a well-placed assist. What better than to make many peoples’ days become more pleasant?

Satisfaction (i.e., happiness) can be gleaned in the small things. Happiness is doing a good job and recognizing that to be the case, contributing to a group effort, getting a pat on the back, sitting back and pondering the good feelings. For isn’t pleasure gained from the sublime, what we’re here on this earth to collect?

An ice cream cone or a glistening glass of iced tea on a hot day brings great pleasure. So does scratching an itch. As much as I like my physical pleasures, I’m looking for something more holistic. For me, being a tooth on a small cog of the works suffices and pleases, a spiritual kind of pleasure.

Happiness is My Choice, 4

I attended a funeral last week. Yesterday I attended a wedding. The circle of life constantly wheels around.

Sublime Happiness - the Bride at Her Wedding

Sublime Happiness – the Bride at Her Wedding

A woman from my congregation passed away, the first person I actually knew since I’ve moved to NYC who died. Her death occupied my mind after I learned of it. She wasn’t particularly young, but she didn’t seem quite old. I spoke to her at a congregational function a few weeks ago, just a few words, and didn’t remark that she looked ill or odd. No death touches nobody; this one touched quite a few. A wooden barrier closed the street to traffic.  Mourners lined the street and sidewalks outside the synagogue as short eulogies were spoken into a microphone by the rabbi and one of her sons. As is our tradition, we followed the hearse, walking a way with it, accompanying the deceased for her honor. Though not very overcast or cold, a mood-swallowing chill engulfed the participants. No laughter, just a smattering of voices, most were silent or reciting psalms while escorting her as far as we could walk.

This lady, her son recalled, dedicated her life to making people happy.  She followed a directive of the former Rav1 of the community, Rabbi Shimon Schwab. When you are walking on the avenue and see a woman, compliment her on her outfit, say something nice and brighten her day was the gist of the message. The son also requested from the crowd that everyone consider honoring his mother’s memory by taking on one mitzvah/positive deed. Smile at someone once a day. Say psalms. Do a kindness for someone.

How wonderful a concept: remembrance through deeds and positive actions. I can choose to create peace and harmony in my corner of the world. I can commemorate a life well-led and carry on her good deeds. Every time I have a good word for someone else, I send a blessing. A smile, a thoughtful gesture, a small courtesy may not take much time or mean much to me… but it could make a whole lot of difference to someone else.

I can choose to be a better person and get over hurts and slights, move on from difficulties, aim my efforts to improve the situation wherever I am.

Yesterday I danced at a wedding! I hugged and laughed and dabbed at my eyes which filled with tears of joy.

I watched the proceedings with my own personal blessings on my lips: wishing the young couple a happy, harmonious life, a long marital bond.  I sat amongst friends, relatives, people I’ve seen before and those I’ve never seen and may never see again. I reveled in their happiness, delighted in the pleasure of the parents, friends, and relatives. A new start, a bright new future as this couple forges a permanent bond.  How special! What a difference from the experience of last week.

Sure, I can focus on the bittersweet: the ones who are not here, the ones who cannot be here, the ones who are not yet married or engaged, the ones who yearn to be so. But now is for the present. Keeping in the present keeps me grounded, not guessing about the future or lamenting the past.  I choose to live in the moment and let my heart soar.

Flowers at a wedding.

Flowers at a wedding.

My philosophy is simple: Happiness is my choice, and I can frame my experience through happy eyes… or choose to see the world as impoverished, mundane, gray and something to be muddled through. I am not the progenitor of this philosophy; I only claim the role of spreading the idea. Through simple action and leading a life aware of blessings and gifts, I can make my corner of the world a better place.

Now isn’t that fun?

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1. Rav, honorific for a rabbi, usually the head of a community or distinguished by great scholarship.

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