Sunday, January 9, 2011

Writing, Thinking, Happiness

You know, I thought about starting a blog for a long time before I actually started one, and the biggest obstacle standing in my way of staring one was that I kept thinking, “but what in the world will I write about?” Ironically, I never had any problems writing and I was the kid who almost always had to shorten papers for school because they were always over the limit. Sometimes I feel I could write forever and never stop because I have so much to say. The underlying issue was really “what in the world could I write about that I could share with the entire world on the internet?” That is a somewhat harder question. So I figured I would write about things that I’ve been thinking about, situations that have arisen in my life. Once I’d come up with a few good ideas for topics, I figured it was time to jump in.

Except for the fact that the past week I kept thinking, “What are my thoughts? What am I thinking about?” and nothing seemed to come to me. After a couple months with tons of ideas to write about, I seemed to run out of ideas. Everyone hits writers block at some point, and it was hard for me to even write about why it so frustrating to be able not to write. Writing is just an extension of thinking. Which is say that you need to think in order to write. But I often find that I need to write in order to think. Sometimes my thoughts are completely disorganized and I need to put them on paper to organize them and figure out what I’m really thinking. Writing is expressing, and when I attempt to express a thought and it comes out wrong, it pushes me to dig deeper. I kept trying to write to get the juices going, but nothing was coming to me, until I starting thinking again.

Recently I’ve been thinking about happiness and what makes a person happy. Actually, I should delete the word “recently” since happiness is actually something I think about a lot. I was listening to one of the many songs on my iPod to the words: מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד, that it is a mitzvah to be B’simcha always. (As a side note, I once saw an alternate version of this saying that I really liked: שמחה גדולה להיות במצוה תמיד- Being constantly involved in a Mitzvah brings great happiness. What an interesting twist and a great perspective). Anyway, I usually translate the phrase מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד to mean that it is a great Mitzvah to be happy, always, but I realized that linguistically, if that was the correct translation, then it would have said: מצוה גדולה להיות שמח תמיד. Using the term “B’Simcha” instead of “Sameach” denotes not that it is a mitzvah to always be happy, but rather that it is a mitzvah to always be, as I would stay, in a state of happiness.

Being happy versus being in a state of happiness are not the same thing. I don’t think (and I think most people would agree) that it is not good to always be happy. There are times when happiness is not appropriate, such as at funerals, on somber days such as Tisha B’Av, and when others are in pain. However, constantly striving for happiness, trying to always recognize the good in the world, and trying to stay positive, is a goal that should be constant, Tamid. B’Simcha literally means “with simcha” or “in the midst of simcha.” To be always happy is not only a goal that is not desired, but it is also impossible. There will always times when you will feel upset, and being told that you shouldn’t be sad, that you should always be happy, can cause a person to feel guilty for not being happy, and perhaps cause them to try to push the negative emotions out of the way instead of trying to deal with them and work them through.

The point of מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד is that everyone is entitled to feel negative emotions, and at times they are even required. However, it is important to place those feelings in the context of an overall picture and life of happiness. A state of happiness is a general way of life. Some have argued that it is not an ending point, but rather a journey. Maybe we can’t always be happy, but we can always strive to live a happy life.

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