Happily Ever After
Walt Disney Pictures recently released a sort-of fairy tale, sort-of parody movie. There, the fairy tale princess Giselle is thrown from a cursed pool, to the real world. The impact is immediate: she is so out of place in miserable urban New York, with her seemingly out-of-place gaiety. In fact, the divorce lawyer who helps her is scandalized by the way she shed tears over complete strangers, after learning that they had decided to separate.
The movie’s theme, carelessly underplayed, was that there was such a thing as a “happily ever after”, even in the real world. It was thus received with much criticism, although the redeeming qualities of the movie was in the acting of Amy Adams, who played the clueless princess only beginning to experience the harshness of real life. The movie itself was deemed unrealistic. No, people will not join in chorus and dance with a girl who obviously doesn’t know the world. No, the animals of the forest or the city will not flock to a girl’s sweet voice. Princesses are generally insulated from the reality of indifference, apathy, and cruelty. If only she could see the world as it is, then she would know that there is no “happily ever after”. But Giselle was right.
We live in a cynical world. In our search for Love and Happiness, we found only pain and suffering. In our labors to find the goodness of the human heart, we have only found deeper and deeper levels of cruelty. It was then that our outlook of the world changed. As Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, “They say that God is dead. They say that it is just a question of semantics. I say that it is a question of optics; because they can’t see Love. Love is dead.” We sought happiness in the love of others, but suffered instead. We felt pain. And pain went against everything that our bodies stood for. Then we began to wonder, “Why should we love a world that inflicts only suffering, and death?”
And this is cynicism. Having seen the world in a darker view, we decided to refuse our Love to those that will not love us back. The world became a darker place, indeed. In the cynical mindset, everything is seen with distrust. Even an act of goodness is seen with an ulterior, often evil motive. The cynical world has also encouraged duplicity; you begin to feel that since everyone is in it to enrich himself, you might as well engage in it yourself. And there is no happiness. Because there is no trust.
In previous posts, I explained that the work of Love comes through pain, and hardship. The work of Love will have you wonder why God would allow so much of this evil to come to pass. Oftentimes, happiness will leave you. This is the period when the poison of cynicism and distrust will start to eat at you. It will magnify the blunt pain, and it will add weight to your fatigue.
But you can be happy, even in the labor of Love. Happiness is generally seen as an indicator of the body’s acquiescence to an act. The body dictates to the mind that it is benefiting from this action, or this state. When pain occurs, naturally the body objects, and therefore sends its displeasure to the mind. This then, is the problem. Happiness, first of all, should be a discipline of the mind. There are many Chinese healing arts that teaches the achievement of happiness through the tranquility of the mind.
One could discipline oneself to happiness, even at times of great pain. When faced with a sharp pain, the immediate instinct of the body is to cry, or shrink in sadness. In the lower levels of discipline, one distracts oneself through remembering of better memories, and the happier ones. Then, as the levels of discipline increase, one can realize that the tragedy is not so magnified as one thought that it could be. Finally, facing it, one can transcend the calls of the flesh and let the mind find peace in pain.
There is something lacking in the teachings of the Buddhists and the Chinese. Their studies and their teachings explain that to attain the fullness of the mind’s tranquility, one must reject the world, and all its evils. One must transcend beyond the calls of the flesh, to the spirit. We, however, are called to embrace the world, and all its evils. It’s true that we must reject the call of the flesh, but not to ascend in spirit to the greater void. But to magnify Love.
Happiness is also a discipline of the heart. We must attain a peace of mind, and accept the world’s ills; we must not reject it. We are called to Love, and to suffer for the world. Generally, not only is happiness oriented in the fulfillment of the body’s needs, but also of the needs of the self. We must therefore reorient our happiness, away from what we need, but towards the objects of our affection. A mother should not be happy for a few days of peace, but at the sight of her happy child. A lover should not be happy because of the things that her lover does to her, but because of the Love she has for him. We must be happy not because it benefits us, but because it glorifies the object of our affection.
Giselle was insulated from the cruelty of the world, and was saved from its cynical viewpoint. She did not see their actions of hatred, but them as objects of Love. She was therefore, happy. We often make a mistake on priorities: we love to be happy, when we should be happy to love. Happiness is therefore an exercise of both the mind and the heart; the mind, because we are material beings that are tied to this world, and the needs of our physical bodies, and the heart, because we are also spiritual beings whose sole purpose is this: Love.
Happiness is a choice. You choose to be happy not for self-benefit, but for the Love of others. You don’t work for happiness, you work to love, and be happy in the object of your love. Confusing? To those who have not experienced the veneration of a person, or of God, in the throes of Love, yes it is. In the state of Love, you are happy just in the sight of the object of your affection.
There is much to be happy in this world. Friends and family are the immediate objects of your affection. We are also called to extend our love to strangers, to those who are desolate, to the poor who can afford little. We are called to extend our love to the world, and all of God’s creation.
And, it might seem incredible, and fantastic, but we can work to see happiness in Giselle’s eyes. We can be truly happy, in Love.