Saturday, April 16, 2011

Just One Thing

Phew.  I just finished a particularly difficult couple of weeks, homework-wise.  My stress level shows, most notably in my bedroom (in utter disarray at the moment) and in the kitchen (where the puppy has been the primary mode of floor-cleaning) and in my hair (which gets less and less attention as the exams draw nearer).

But now I have finished the last round of exams before finals and begun the rehabilitation process, resting up for the final push of the semester.

I get a rush of low-grade euphoria the afternoon after an exam, especially if I feel reasonably good about it. I also get a rush of euphoria after grocery-shopping, incidentally.  I love the feeling of being "stocked up"; it makes me feel safe.

So after driving home from my post-exam grocery-shopping trip, I was listening to Comptine d'un autre été, by Yann Tiersen and driving down Texas Avenue.  The gentle happiness seemed to be wafting from my skin, and in the beautiful broken chords, a wonderful peace surrounded me.

Musing on my happiness, I realized:

Survival is having everything you need.  Happiness is knowing you have everything you need.

Most of what I have, I don't need.  My possessions just complicate my life.  I try to minimize the complications, because I want a simple life of grace and beauty.

I think most people do not know what they need.  This is why people are so unhappy and why suicides happen so frequently.

When it comes down to it, what do I need?
Physically, I need water, food, oxygen, sleep, medicines, and so forth.  Emotionally, I need reflection, relaxation, and security.  Spiritually, I need grace, peace, assurance, and so forth.

I do not need the latest gadget.  99% of the time, when I buy something, I'm not buying it because I want it.  I'm buying it because I hope that if I do, I will catch a particular boy's eye, or impress a friend, or be able to avoid a bad habit of mine, or be able to have more free time.  That's what I really want, and even those things are only gateways to something else.

I do not need the things advertised to me.  In fact, if something is being advertised, it's a strong sign I don't need it.  If I did need it, its value would be obvious to me, and they wouldn't be trying to convince me to buy the thing.  They advertise products to me because I do not need them.

I think this realization explains why some of the poorest people in the world are the happiest.  They know exactly what they need, and know that right now, they have it.  They know this because they've seen what it's like to not have those things.
This is true physically, but I think it's also true emotionally.  Some of the happiest people I know are those who have known the deepest suffering. They know what it's like to be without, emotionally.   When they have what they need, they know it.  Thus, they are happy.  And of course, a small voice inside me whispers, "Blessed are the poor in spirit..."

Part of my happiness is knowing that I have what I need.  I don't actually need new clothes, fancy coffee, or special makeup.  I don't need to know who I am.  I don't need to find myself.  I don't need to know what is going to happen or what will become of me.
I do actually need faith, meaning, a sense of purpose, and the utterly irrational, radical hope that has been growing inside me for the last few months.  I do need peace.  I do need Adoration. I do need Confession.  I do need prayers and readings and reflection.
I will not always have what I need emotionally.  It's virtually certain that someday, I will not have what I need physically.

Is this part of the meaning of life?  Life is a battle, a long train of suffering of various kinds.  Life is hard. Life will knock you down, crush you, press you to the floor.  Life will push you to the place where you look up from the darkness and cry out for deliverance.  Life will break you and batter you until you learn to look not at the darkness around you or the darkness within you but at the light above you.
Maybe the purpose of life is to teach me what I really need, to whittle down my must-have list, as time goes on, to fewer and fewer items of greater and deeper significance.
In the end, maybe life is the story of the long, painful suffering designed to teach us, at the very end, that we really only need one thing.

Thanks be to God.

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