Happy New Year
Dear old and new friends,
Wishes for a "Happy New Year" are exchanged these days with neighbors, strangers on the streets, clerks in stores and echoed from out of television sets. A happy, blissful, joyful, cheerful and delightful 2016 is for many people however unattainable if not impossible. For most the only difference of this coming New Year will be its number; otherwise it will smell like, look like and most of all “feel” like old 2015.
Every 13 minutes in our country someone feeling life is too painfully sad will take their own life! While homicides have fallen by half since 1991, suicide is now the second leading killer for those ages 15-34. To ask why this is the case is politically impolite or incorrect for taxes must be cut, not increased. “Cut back on spending” is the righteous battle cry of the conservative right…and the reason we have closed or curtailed local treatment for the mentally ill. Depressed people, instead of finding treatment in a local mental facility, find themselves in homeless shelters, jails or pondering suicide.
The fellow citizens suffering depression we walk pass on the street, shop among or work with don’t wear signs signaling their unhappy dejected condition. They are prisoners of a most horrifying penitentiary—one with no exits! A human being can survive almost anything as long as she or he can see the end of it in sight, and insidiously depression makes its victims feel there is no escape, except death. The author Eugene O’Neill spoke for a large majority of us when asked to write about happiness replied, “I will write about it if I ever happen to meet up with that luxury.” To wish “Happy New Year” is wishing an unattainable luxury to those seriously depressed, angry with another, aching with a broken heart, in a bitter divorce or unemployed.
“Happy New Year” is like “Thank you for your service” spoken to soldiers in uniform in public gatherings or airports. Military personnel report when they hear that it sounds like a platitude, a hollow expression. The active military, who are only 0.5% of the population, report they feel civilians regard them as guard dogs, a necessary evil. They also feel whenever civilians thank them for their service that unspoken is “I’m glad you serve, so I don’t have to…or my kids won’t have to.”
Expressions of gratitude or wishes for a happy new year must flow from your heart and not just your lips. As children we learned from fairy tales that wishes are very powerful, so look before you wish. Look to see beneath as best you can whoever is standing before you, or use your imagination for each person has a story. It may be one of heart wrenching sadness, of fear, loneliness or exclusion because of their sexuality or physical appearance. It may be one of family discord, broken relationships or a seemingly unattainable bright future. Then inhale, filling your greeting with soul and love, and whatever you intuit will bring happiness to that person.
Think un-American, since an old fashioned USA dogma is happiness and contentment come to those who work hard, have the right attitude and strive for self-improvement. This conviction undergirded a recent Republican politician’s solution to poverty which wasn’t new jobs with equality of wages. His proposal was sending poor people to happiness courses to improve their attitudes!
Three questions for your meditation
1. Do you think you need to attend a happiness course to improve your attitude?
2. Can anyone wish another what they themselves do not possess?
3. Does expressing a wish fulfilling “Happy New Year” have more potency when you are a happy and contented person in solidarity with the employed, the less fortunate, and depressed?