The young boy watched his father replace the clips that hold the large cupboard doors below the sink in the kitchen. He peeked when he could to watch what he was doing while being careful to stay back a bit so as to be out of his way. It did not take long before he was done and left after patting him on the head.
Left alone the boy looked at the closed cupboard for a short time before wandering over to them. He reached his hand careful as if uncertain, took a peak around and then pulled on the handle of the one on the right. He opening it to look at what his dad had done. When he did so he immediately noticed something was different about the way the cupboards opened. The new ones were silent, the distinctive click he had heard when pulling it open before was gone. He also noticed he didn’t feel the same vibrations he had when he pulled the door open before. The old clips had been tight so a good pull was required to open it. It still took a pull, but not nearly as hard. That alone warranted closer examination and found the difference between the old and new was both obvious and astonishing.
He sort of knew how the old ones worked having played with them before. Their replacement puzzled him. The new clips were not clips at all. There were two flat pieces of metal, with one mounted one on the cupboard and one on the framing. He could not help but notice that there were no hooks to hold the door in place. He could not understand how two flat pieces of metal could hold the cupboard door closed. To add to the mystery when he closed it instead of having to push in so it clipped into place he actually felt it pull shut when it was near closed. He noticed it did make a sound when it closed, though he could barely hear it.
He observantly closed it and reopened it a dozen or more times. Each time getting closer and to the side so he could see what was going on. He was certain he would be able to see it clip somehow yet saw nothing. As soon as the two metal plates were close enough they seemed to hook up, but the how of it eluded him.
Believing his vantage point was not good enough to see what was going on he went and got a flashlight. With that in hand he proceeded to empty the cleaning items from the beneath the sink onto the floor and crawled into the cupboard.
He turned around so he faced the door, turned the flashlight on and his attention to the matter at hand. He got his eyes as close to the new clips as he could from where he could see it a little better than from the outside. So, once set, he began anew. He pushed the door open, felt a pull and exerted enough effort to get it to open, and found the opposite when it closed.
At times he’d giggle and shake his head, at others his lips were pursed and eyes narrowed as he mustered all the attention he could to try and figure out how it worked. But nothing he had experienced or could think of explained it; it simply did not make sense. Despite this, he continued to try to find anything that could explain what he was witnessing. Its workings seemed magical to him.
So, try as he might, he could not construct any thoughts to explain things, he continued to draw blanks. He was there for some time opening and closing the door. His determination would not be vanquished easily. He tried different speeds, listened to hear what was happening and then, convinced if he could just it better he would have his answer, retrieved his dad’s magnifying glass from the front room. Again, it was for naught.
He did eventually give up, not on wanting to understand what was going on, but on trying to figure it out on his own. There was only one thing he could do. He crawled out of the cupboard, weaved his way between and over the former contents of the cupboard and headed for the rec room. He knew he could get an answer there and he had to know. He hurried along the hall and then down the stairs calling out “….dad…. dad?!” as he went … the young boy was about to discover magnetism.
I distinctly remember this event, it happened when I was about 5 years old, including my mother calling me back to clean up the mess I’d left in the kitchen which interrupted my dad’s explanation. My dad did finish explaining it to me when I was done cleaning things up, in a manner of speaking, and though I heard the words I really did not grasp the full concept of magnetism, though I would soon enough.
I do have a large number of memories going back until I was about 2, but this one really stuck with me. Over the years I have thought about why this one evokes strong energies, but not emotional ones, whenever I think about it. Contemplating why over the years has helped me to see two reasons why this particular one affects me the way it does, joy and supreme curiosity.
The act of trying to figure out such a mystery had me feeling joyously alive! Nothing mattered to me more or felt better than trying to solve it, to understand it. Every part of my attention was focused on that one act, and nothing else mattered. Responsibly, cares, concerns and even time itself melted away. Though for a boy of five, time is rarely a concern, even when it should be.
The other reason was pleasure of being curious and being so with utter abandon. I remember how completely baffled I was yet at the same time my determination to solve the mystery. Looking back I remember, and in a way feel my mind struggling to integrate what it was experiencing. It searched for any experiences that resembled it in any fashion. It found no commonalities close enough to integrate the experience and perhaps grasp the workings of those magical clips. That is why I could not settle on an explanation using existing thoughts nor create one that would do so.
At this point you may be wondering why I have shared this story, cute though it may be. Well, there is a method to my madness and it is this: it speaks to the importance of joy and curiosity in life. They are two very important and often overlooked states of being and mind. So in this essay, there will not be deep examinations, detailed discussions or explanations of how the mind or energy works or some such thing. Today there are just three words: gracious, curious and joyous.
These three simple words, on the surface, seemed like a distillation of many concepts into a nice neat package. I contemplated them and finally asked myself – “Can exemplifying these three words in one’s life indeed bring happiness or make us happier (however we may define happiness)?” I felt the answer before I thought it, and that answer was “Yes”.
We have all used these three words, but until I read a short essay in one of my wife’s magazines neither the power of the words alone or the combination of the three of them had dawned on me. I have a tendency to get very analytical and deep, something I continue to work on. Writing, teaching and playing music help me to get away from it though it may not always seem that way. In the past I might not have given such an article much thought, but it caught my attention.
In part, I found a simplicity and elegance to it that was worthy of consideration. The article was about how to find happiness. While happiness is hard to qualify and quantify, and indeed what that might mean is highly personal, the thought of what happiness is brought me back to the first essay in the core material of The Twin Powers, The Human Condition (1). In that essay I talk about how I considered the notion that human life contains suffering and came to the conclusion that the cause of our suffering is ignorance. It is our ignorance that blocks our happiness, not that I won’t discount the notion that we can be “blissfully ignorant”. I still believe that to be the case, and further that one can overcome their ignorance by learning, even though the human mind has the tendency to overcomplicate things. Nor do we find happiness merely by overcoming our ignorance.
Yes, knowledge is power but only of one kind. And there is knowledge to be found by reading and studying what you have read. But, there is also “knowledge” to be found through states of Being rather than of doing (2). Further, I would argue, the former is a requirement in happiness. In a fashion this is what Bertrand Russell was saying by the below statement. Bear in mind that Bertrand Russell was more an atheist than anything and the times and the way people thought when he wrote this were very different than today.
“The main things which seem to me important on their own account, and not merely as means to other things, are knowledge, art, instinctive happiness, and relations of friendship or affection.”
Being joyous, curious and gracious are states of being and not actions per say. I firmly believe that learning “to be and not just do” is critical to enjoying life. It is our thoughts that lead to our suffering, hence alleviating it with thoughts alone will not work. There is a reason for the saying “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy”. The three words, gracious, curious and joyous represent what we are and not what we do.
To be happy one truly must expand what they seek and how they seek it. I am sure that most could agree (to varying degrees) that living life by the ideas these three words represent can lead to happiness, just as we can mentally grasp the dynamic of thoughts and energy. However, ideas are thoughts and thoughts are doings. We can be happy when we think, but the converse is not true, that is it is not thinking about things that makes us happy. Is this not an interesting notion? Our “state of being” leads us to think and governs the kinds of thoughts we have, not the other way around.
If we let our thoughts dictate to us, to decide what makes us happy, we will be living in that one world, a state of perpetual doing. This in and of itself is not a problem so much as the problem is what motivates our doing. Is it other thoughts or something not part of our mind, something more akin to our core, or spirit or our soul that motivates and guides our doings? It is a helpful distinction to make.
Being gracious means to be kind and courteous, and if you consider the list of synonyms it also means amicable, beneficent, charitable, compassionate, considerate, friendly, loving, merciful and sociable and so on. To me it also means recognizing that no one is an island unto themselves and that, with rare exceptions, cannot go it alone. Someone has to farm, build roads, power facilities, and make cars, homes and the items we use each and every day.
We should be gracious and grateful for that rather than focusing on what we want and need. No matter how bad we think we have it, someone out there has it worse. If we have food, water and shelter we really have little to complain about for these are the core needs and everything else is a bonus. We may think we need that nice new car, new cell phone or a bigger television or some such thing, but we really do not. We have only allowed ourselves to need them. Further, we all should take the time to recognize the inherent value of others and treat them with respect and dignity even if they are not doing so themselves. Their issues are theirs not ours and we ought not to make them ours by acting as they do or by reacting to them with lower emotions.
When we are gracious we elevate our energy to the higher levels of the astral, we are less likely to be selfish, angry, mean, rude or nasty. We are also less likely to be bothered by needs for things we cannot seem to attain. This in and of itself is of huge benefit to us, not only that it is more in line with our true nature. Graciousness is one quality that virtually all of us should try to exemplify at all times.
Arguably, of the three words, the one that resonates with me the strongest is curiosity; for I had long believed that without curiosity the mind becomes rigid, reliant on existing thought forms and thereby stuck in the past. The ability to grasp new ideas require a fluid mind, further, curiosity is something I have always possessed and found it kept me from getting old and set in my ways (not that this doesn’t happen to a certain extent even with the best intentions). Curiosity is also fuel for our imagination and we cannot use our imagination to any significant degree if we are always using existing thought forms.
Curiosity is important because when we lose our curiosity we might as well be robots. The rigid mind is subjective, closed and unable to respond openly to new experiences to exploring the world. Those who lack curiosity have given up living for existing. They are essentially saying to the Cosmos that I know what I need to know, I am sure of what I know, I am “good” with what I know and nothing else matters. It is a closed and dark place even though those who are this way do not see it. When we cease to be curious it means our egos have taken over and once we do that we have forsaken our souls.
There is great enjoyment in curiosity; I think any one of us can attest to that. We may struggle to find answers to questions, they can even drive us crazy, but I think anyone who has done so will attest to the fact that they feel alive even uplifted when they explore just for the sake of exploring, question or seek to understand.
The last of the three qualities is being joyous. Being joyous means one is ecstatic or exultantly happy. We are likely to be joyous when we are accepting what is there for us in the moment without concern for the future and are unencumbered by the past.
I remember having a discussion with a friend a long time ago about how tasty the fine food we were eating was. He stated something to the affect that “being able to each such great tasting food is truly a gift”. I smiled and he asked me why, so I said, “it is not the taste of the food that is the gift, the gift it is that we can taste anything at all”.
In keeping with this thought, the best example I can think of to share with you to help illustrate this is an old Buddhist koan that goes something like this:
"A monk raced to the edge of a cliff, glanced back, and saw the growling tiger about to spring. The monk spotted a vine dangling over the edge of the cliff. He grabbed it and began shinnying down the side of the cliff out of the clutches of the tiger.The monk thought he had escaped the tiger but then he looked down and saw a quarry of jagged rocks five hundred feet below. He looked up and saw the tiger poised atop the cliff with bared claws. Just then, two mice began to nibble at the vine. He wondered what to do?
The monk then saw a strawberry within arm’s reach, growing out of the face of the cliff. He plucked it, ate it, and exclaimed, “Yum! That’s the best strawberry I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.”
If he had been preoccupied with the rock below (the future) or the tiger above (the past), he would have missed the strawberry in the present moment.
Life is best when you do not focus on the tigers of the past or the jagged rocks of the future but only on the strawberry that comes in the here and now..
Even when we struggle with life there is always something we can find to take joy in. We may have to change our perspective a little to find it, but we can if we choose. Of course we can, as my father used to say, wallow in our self pity, but as we all know that solves nothing. In fact, I would argue it only makes things worse as by doing so we are wrapping ourselves in the very emotions that are making it hard for us to find any happiness at all.
My good friend Kevin has used the term “laughing form” for a long time. Wisely, he sees the power and joy in being able to laugh about things, to allow our spirit to freely express itself joyously, and that happens when we are laughing. Few things lift our spirits like laughter, yet we spend so little time doing it. We can become bothered by what we do not have or are not getting and completely ignore what we do have already. Life is to be celebrated as the gift it is and should not taken for granted or cruised through.
I can say these three words will help each of us to be happier, but it won’t happen unless we make an effort to try to be gracious, curious and joyous. I will also admit that it can be very hard to do so when we are really struggling with life. Yet, there is always a choice, namely do we let the negativity govern our thoughts and how we feel or do we take a different path? These three qualities will not find us we must seek, find and nurture them. So, some last thoughts to consider….
- Do not grow old prematurely by forsaking your curiosity for the comfortable confines of what you know already, it is a prison.
- The next time you find yourself getting angry, frustrated, hurt or lonely try to remember that there is much you have to be grateful of and thankful for.
- And at all times remember that life itself is a gift and even when we are struggling, we can be joyful that we still have the gift of simply being alive ….
© 2012 Allan Beveridge
Last edited on February 27, 2018