In the Pursuit of Happiness
Last Remembrance day I attended an amazing presentation by Eva Olsson on the subject of the Jewish Holocaust during the Second World War. Her stories impressed me because I guess I hadn’t realized the depth that prejudice can reach.
It’s an interesting concept, prejudice. Babies are not born with the ability to sense racial differences. Whenever I have watched children play together, it doesn’t matter what language they speak, never mind what colour skin they have. They look beneath that.
That being said, we must question the influence that introduces the attitude that diversity is wrong and it’s always better to fit in.
I once heard a story about a boy at about age seven in Germany during the Second World War. A group of Jewish slaves were being marched to a labor position. The boy, while observing the group, took hold of his mother’s skirt. He said to her, “Look mommy, here come the idiots.”
Where do children that young learn to judge differences? Why do small compassionate people grow up to be people of biased belief?
I’ve come to believe that ethnic discrimination is only the extreme end of the spectrum. I sometimes feel manipulated by the media, being told things like “being perfect is beautiful” and “money is happiness”. It seems to me that it’s these kinds of narrow-minded statements that plant the seed of hatred and bigotry in the hearts of many.
In our community, there may be more subtle kinds of discrimination. Perhaps beauty verses ugly or wealth verses poor is a more powerful and common example of segregation. I’m not convinced that money is necessarily even connected to happiness. Our culture eludes that if we make enough money and have everything our heart desires we would be truly happy.
In preparing for this article, I discovered many interesting applications. Recent studies show that there are a number of habits and activities that happy people partake in. These practices include gardening, being engaged in tight social circles, practicing gratitude, and being involved in community. In every case, engaging in activities that allow them to express and share the love that we all have for each other and our home.
I think that love is the leading component to happiness. The more love we receive, the more we have to release. The more contact we have with love, the happier we are. We are a species that depend on relationships. Relationships in turn, depend on understanding. Without understanding there can be no relationship. When we don’t understand something, we automatically assume that that thing must be against us in some way. This is when we develop a prejudice.
I wonder that if Hitler had understood the Jewish faith, and had understood that they are a resourceful intelligent sect, not power seeking rebels, would there have been no war? No holocaust? No worldwide hatred?
I question what our culture would look like if we realized that every woman was intricately and wonderfully made, that every person is different, and that this is a good thing? Would there be no more standards of beauty and wealth to live up to, seemingly always just out of our reach?
I suspect that prejudice does not create happiness. Happiness creates happiness. In compassion, in giving, in selflessness not selfishness and in love. It is in this fashion that our happiness can drastically change the world for the better.