Monday, July 23, 2012

Truth and happiness


One of the most annoying cliches in the history of the human race surely has to be:  "Would you rather be right or be happy?"

On a fairly simple level, yes, I get it:  Don't sweat the small stuff.  Though, contrary to what you may have been told, it's not "all small stuff."  Some things in life really do count as "big stuff."  Some disputes, however, really aren't worth pursuing.  Let go and move on.

Even when a matter needs to be resolved among all concerned, we don't always have that option.  Life leaves us with loose ends.  We never will be able to tie up those loose ends with the other parties involved, and so our only recourse is to finish them off within ourselves, weave them into the fabric of our own souls, and carry on.

Do note that it is important for us to allow ourselves to do whatever we need to do to resolve these matters within ourselves.  Simply suppressing the unresolved conflict, shutting up about it because "nobody" wants to hear about it, is not going to resolve the conflict within you.  If the people around you are not supportive of that process of resolution, find people who will be supportive, or simply give yourself the time and solitude necessary for healing.

Upon closer examination, the notion that it is better to "be happy" than to "be right" proves inadequate to the complexities of real lived experience.  It's one of those glossy simplistic feel-good platitudes that gets trotted out as if it were deep spiritual wisdom.

For one thing, being right and being happy are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  One who loves wisdom and seeks truth might be seen as "unhappy" in the process of questing and questioning, because that process does tend to involve conflict, intellectual and interpersonal; but arriving at answers, discovering truth, finding a satisfactory resolution to a troubling conflict, is deeply satisfying in ways that go beyond mere "happiness."

Sometimes it's more important to seek the truth than to smooth over the ruffled feathers of those who don't like hearing the questions.  When there is injustice in the world, conscience and compassion as well as a love of seeking truth compel us to do what we can to remedy that injustice.  And not only the large-scale societal injustices:  If we wish to truly heal and mend the harmful, dysfunctional patterns in our personal lives, we need to address the small-scale injustices in our homes, our families, our workplaces, our communities.

It is necessary, for our own healing and happiness, to go beyond surface harmony to addressing and resolving the problems and injuries which are at the root of our pain and conflict.  We cannot pretend everything is okay when in fact it is not.  Plastic platitudes, like plastic bandages, will not heal deep wounds.