I don’t believe in manifestos, nor the terse outlines and lists of goals that are meant to define to what measure a person should live their life, let alone my own. Just as the whole concept in the business world of first writing a lengthy business plan, then getting started with the whole venture, is now a relic of the past. It has finally been recognized that the most important thing is not creating fictional financial statements that hold no bearing on reality, it is about the ‘Just do it’ part (apologies for the cliche).
Years ago I found myself sitting on a couch a bit tipsy on bourbon and water, surrounded by a Baptist youth group that was crashing at the house while on an outing (very long story on how they got there, and the situation, but truth be told it was a bloody nightmare of blather). Sitting quietly I flipped through a Southern Living magazine reading articles about planting tips, good BBQ sauce techniques, and opulent homes, when I was disrupted by one of the counselors. He was a cheery bloke, probably in his mid twenties, lean and tan from a life outdoors, probably from many of these youth group type things. The one aspect that he neatly forgot to learn in bible class was the idea of judging others, especially chaps that have spent 70 hours in laboratories and planes, just to reach that spot for the weekend, the couch with cocktail glass sweating on the nearby coffee table, my tired legs crossed.
First he pointed out the wonder of creation, of all that god has given us. I nodded, and sipped, turned a page, and waited (I had a very good idea of what was coming next). The wonder of Jesus, and his sacrificing for our sins, the example that he had come to set for everyone to live by. Another sip (God damn the ice has almost all melted), another nod of my head, but this time with a smile. Then the comment about drinking, how it was dangerous, and likely to lead to all manner of evils (loved the joke by Garrison Keillor about two baptists in a package store, worse than a porn shop, or something like that). True happiness according to my young friend was to live a good life, according to the dictates of christ. And that was it, I closed my magazine, pausing on the article specific to gazebos.
I explained, that all of this was interesting, but I had a tad of a different idea about all of this. I noted a quote that I like to live my life by, which was said by his Holiness the Dalai Lama. Kind of goes something like this, the most important thing in life is to find happiness, that is personal, and comes at the cost of no one else s ability to also find happiness. And that’s it. No books, no scripture, no praying, no flagellation. About this moment I realized that I really did need more ice, and perhaps another splash more of rye. I thanked him for the conversation and went on my merry way to the wet bar, magazine under folded under my arm, off to find a room where I really could learn everything I could about southern gazebos.
I look back on that interaction and smile, because 14 years later I still believe it, and live it every day. Finding happiness is the most important thing anyone can ever do, despite the sacrifices that at times it may take.