What are the conditions that make for the possibility of happiness?
It seems to me that this is perhaps the most fundamental question that we should be considering. But can we, though, even begin to answer it? If one were to correlate happiness with longevity, the conclusions of the "Blue Zone" studies would answer in the affirmative. In short, "Blue Zones" are the unique few global locations that have the longest-lived persons. These folks share some common characteristics, such as gardening and walking, knowing their purpose for focus and how to relax, eating a plant-based diet (a lot of beans), and are moderate drinkers, belong to a faith community, celebrate their families, and "tribe" in close networks of support. Many of these "blue zone" folks live to be over one hundred and remain active while doing so!
But can one really be happy if he is living thusly while much of the rest of the world seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket?
Again, it seems to me that collectively we need to be "public" about the means for cultivating the ability to live in "soulful harmony". The Parliament of the World's Religions issued its Declaration "A Global Ethic" a number of years ago which still has value as we consider the conditions that make for the possibility of happiness. The Parliament listed "four irrevocable directives", they are: 1. Commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life; 2. Commitment to a culture of solidarity and a just economic order; 3. Commitment to a culture of tolerance and a life of truthfulness; and 4. Commitment to a culture of equal rights and partnership between men and women. One might conclude that these commitments fly in the face of power politics (and everything else), terrorism, mass shootings and incarceration, hate crimes, and the elevation of greed as a social virtue. However, if it is our goal to foster the cultivation of "soulful harmony" within and for oneself, within one's circle, and the expansion of that circle to all the world, then these commitments further elucidate the findings of the "Blue Zones".
Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement with Dorothy Day, used to write and speak about "making it easier for people to be happy." Doesn't all of this boil down to whether or not we will summon the will to strive to re-shape our environments to facilitate the possibility for happiness -- for everyone with whom we live? Is there a first step more needed than that of building within our own lives empathy and wisdom?
Empathy is the learned ability -- through the examples of others -- as how to recognize the suffering of still others as one's own, and then the will to move ahead to ease that suffering: this is also the only path into experiential wisdom (the only wisdom that really counts). If we can't summon the grace to care, why in the world would we pretend that we are following the teaching of Some Sublime Dude when he said that we are to love others as we love ourselves?
Here's a summary of the religion, politics, and economics of Jesus (from St. Luke 6: 20 - 26): "Beautiful are you who are poor, the Garden of Eternal Delight is yours! Wah-hoo! Beautiful are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled with extra to share! Wah-hoo! Beautiful are you who cry now in your suffering, for you will have the last laugh! Wah-hoo! Beautiful are you when people hate you and reject you because of your work for justice: remember that is how very many of the Great Ones have been treated... Ah, but as for you wealth-dogs wagging your tails at unlimited profits, your days are numbered! Wah-hoo! And as for you who feast while children die of hunger and live in poverty, your days are numbered! Wah-hoo! And as for you who laugh now in the buffoonery of privilege and power, your days are numbered! Wah-hoo! And as for you who wrap lies around your tongues while fellow rogues extoll your praises, your days are numbered, for in the very same way have many a scoundrel been lifted up! Wah-hoo!"
Now, the "Way of Tears" is an activated compassion that knows the suffering of every other to be, in fact, her very own. This essential identification with the Suffering Poor (the Suffering Christ-in-the-Poor) is the spiritual identification with Jesus that really matters! One could "go to Church" seven days a week, but if he still watches and believes FOX News, it won't matter one whit. Compassion stands on Truth: Truth requires Justice: Justice demands Equality: Equality builds Peace: Together, these stunning virtues make for a "social" and "soulful" Harmony...
Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement with Dorothy Day, used to say that "the poor are the ambassadors of God". In other words, it is precisely in how we treat the poor among us that we treat "God". This is not an obtuse point: it is the very crux of genuine spirituality, regardless of personal beliefs or opinions: it is meant for each and every one of us precisely because it is the right way to live! Do you see the "illegal immigrant"? Welcome her into your home and community. Do you see the Muslim? Sit down and break bread with him. Do you see the gay couple? Invite them to the ballgame with you. Every other is your very self unveiled: we have been tasked by the Master Poet to love others as we love ourselves: this is the Christian faith without the poo-hoo-ey. And one of the special things about this is that one need not be Christian to practice it: one could be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan, Atheist, or Other, and one could still practice, and unleash, their love-without-limits!
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.