30 December 2010

Happy in SLO

My friend Cate Trujillo always has these interesting creative projects she is doing. I wrote this for her "Happy in SLO" project.

Happiness is neither a made nor unmade condition, though it seems so. It is possible to make suffering and to place things in the way of our happiness. It is possible to experience pleasurable stimuli we confuse with happiness, a deadening substitute that callouses the heart. Happiness can seem closer to the surface here, in the location of this location, than in many of the places I have lived, and I have lived in many places. Such a comparative act of narrative is not useful in the domain of happiness. The felt heartbreak of our impermanence sloughs away the callouses on the heart in an instant. This sundering of what we have through artifice avoided is always present in any local moment, here no less or more. In that moment the happiness in which we are simply participants is revealed. These hills that surround and hold the particular moment of the town remind us of our natural condition in their embrace. In any direction, we can see the outlines of this bowl, in which our lives unfold. We feel that unfolding in the natural, cyclic changes adorning the apparent permanence of surrounding hills. Like happiness this can only be witnessed. I particularly like the winter when, occluded, the hills could be the feet of some soaring, implied, mountain. There is an immediate doorway to an unexplored horizon. The town itself becomes intimate; embraced. All becomes green in just a few days it seems. This way of being held seems to me a mixed blessing, giving both a natural relaxation to life and a shadowed xenophobia that can come with being cradled so. Time can slow, stretching out to some fullness of being. People walk, rather than rush, to some appointed moment. There is a localized and immediate sense of fabric and exchange. There is the sense that something beautiful can emerge in the liminal spaces of some us, together. This is brought into relief by the shadowed reflection of fear and isolation that has us wish to remove park benches and decide that sweeping events of this moment on the planet are not occurring because the weather stations within hailing distance have not reported, cannot report, them to us. Our happiness wears the leering mask of acquisitive complacence, a rictus grin of 'us and them.' We grasp and cling to the imagined moment of an artificially produced security; an impoverished and fearful substitute for actual happiness. We feel the immediacy of dependency and its imagined necessities at the expense of greater connectedness in the world. In the moment of this intimacy we recoil from the volatility, upheaval and intricacy of a larger complexity. We are afraid and in the doings of our fear actively forget the immediacy of our happiness. The stars of Antarctic night are overwhelming, self obliterating. Should I look away? A cloistered immediacy steals away the natural morphology of happiness always arising and so present here. I myself live in a very small world here and the outer smallness of this place reflects that back to me, amplifying and refracting the state of immediacy and intimacy. In the stillness of that it becomes possible to feel the sweep of this moment on the planet, if we are willing. So felt, that wave of moment is not some comparative, analytic act to be placed in the ledger of such moments and then used in the heartless calculation of happiness as a fetish. Happiness is not particulate and cannot be counted. The artificial duality of 'here and there,' some imagined 'us and them' mists the moment of our already present happiness and we seek consolation in stimulus and consumption. "If only... then I would be happy" rides the soul, an unwanted passenger of habituation. Happiness is never the minimization of suffering to be found in some exercised efficiency. Happiness is only ever a discovery of what already is. It is revealed in the contemplative and ecstatic, both of which call forth an already present wholeness and coherence, both of which draw us through and outside of ourselves into the land that actually is. In the breaths between our busy-ness this bubbles up, unless we habitually and actively prevent it. The social contract of our scarcity and fear encounter the abundance always issuing forth from our impermanence. Here, in the place of this place, it seems closer to the surface, a less distanced remembering of what is already known, and can only ever be known now, when we are turned to it in the wholeness of our hearts.

roger burton, SLO 2010


  1. which came first, the happiness or the pain?
    or is it one of those non-dualistic thingies?
    my brain hurts, but my heart has been opened just a crack more having read this. and im grateful.