Happiness, Freedom and Choices

I remember many years ago, when I was just a kid, sitting on the front porch and talking with my oldest brother, Bob, who looked at me with a smile and asked, “Are you happy?”

I don’t remember what I said but Bob gave me a thoughtful look and said, “I think we’re here to be happy” as he nodded his head.

That made sense to me and I shook my head and agreed. I not sure if I ever  thought about it before but I liked what Bob said back then and I still like it today.

I remember about the same time, a grammar school teacher went in front of the classroom with a serious look on his face and said, “Listen students, I want you to listen to this. I’m going to write something on the chalkboard that is probably the most important lesson I’ll ever teach you or that you’ll ever learn.” And then he wrote the word “Choice” on the chalkboard and he looked at the class very seriously and said, “This is the most important thing you’ll ever do, make choices.”

I remember looking at the teacher intently and thinking, “Yeah, yeah, go on….” But I guess that was the end of lesson because I don’t remember him saying much after that.

I’ve thought about that for many years since. The problem is, in all my years of going to school, from kindergarten through high school and through college, I don’t remember anyone ever trying to teach us how to make decisions.

The same thing is true with what my brother Bob said about being happy. Yes, I agree and I think that we are here to be happy. The problem is, it’s up to us to find what makes us happy. And I suppose the same thing is true about making choices and how to make a decision. It’s up to us to make a decision. And I guess it all comes down to your value system, what you consider important and what you believe and feel like you can do about it.

Of course since then I’ve lived many years, some happy, some not so happy and some downright miserable. I’ve also heard people say, “You can choose to be happy.”

First thing I think when I hear something like that is, “Show me where the “be happy button” is and I’ll be happy to push it.”

When I hear people talking about freedom, I think of the freedom of people to make their own choices and the freedom to do what they choose to do.

I look back and think of all the things I had to do that I felt I had no choice and I just had to do. You know, like going to school for years on end and then getting drafted into the army and then going back to school some more and getting a job and getting married and working and running a business and the responsibilities and obligations of relationships and raising children — which was all very meaningful, important and rewarding — at least the raising children part — and I’m very glad that I did it. But I’m not sure I ever consciously decided to do any of it. It just sort of seemed to be decided for me.

But now I’m basically retired and I can do what I want to do — but it comes down to freedom and making choices more than ever and I still struggle with how to do that.

So when I hear someone say “freedom is not free” I can relate in that it’s not easy deciding what I want to do. I don’t want to do anything I regret, like make choices and/or decisions (or not make choices and/or decisions) that I’ll look back on and ask myself, “Why the hell did (or didn’t) I do that?” which I’ve done many times before.

Maybe that’s why some people seem to feel secure with a strong leader or even a dictator or some religion telling them what to do. They don’t have to think about it and/or make choices. They just do what they’re told to do.

To me that doesn’t sound like freedom but I guess in some ways it may be freedom to not have to take responsibility of making a choice that you may later regret.

I can’t even believe I wrote that last line but I’m afraid that it very well may be true. Why else are so many countries run by dictatorships and/or religion? They don’t have to think, they just do what they’re told to do.

I recently asked as Asian lady I’ve known for many years if she was happy and she said, “Chinese people don’t think about being happy. They just do what they have to do.”

I didn’t really know what to say about that but I’ve thought about it ever since she said it which may be why I’m writing this post.

Of course millions of people come to America for “freedom” and “democracy” but then millions of people who live in America choose to get strung out on drugs, alcohol, money, power and religion. Is that freedom? Is that happiness? Of course some people would say they’re not choosing to do those things. They’re just addicted to those things.

And let’s not forget that Congress is basically run by “campaign contributions” (a euphemism for bribery) that is basically beholden to the corporations who have them in their pocket who really run things in America today.

So, I guess corporations have the freedom to do what they want to do (especially now since the Supreme Court said “corporations are people.”

And the rest of us? Well, I guess we have the freedom to choose to either try to change things or just accept things the way they are or choose to not do anything about it and choose to either happy about things or be unhappy about it.

The question is, what do I and what do you choose to do.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA  flight_of_freedom_bald_eagle-normal

About Sr Felipe

I grew up in East LA, was drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam as a medic with the 1st Cav from 1966-1967. I survived that, came back to LA, went to East LA College and Cal State LA, became a social worker in Ventura, CA and moved up to Chico, CA in 1975. I started Sr Felipe's Salsas making organic salsa, enchilada, BBQ and pasta sauce that was available in natural food stores nationwide from 1980-2005. I've been doing a radio show on KZFR, Chico, 90.1 FM every Tuesday from 7:30-10:00 PM streamed live on KZFR.org where I play oldies from the 50s & 60s, doo-wop, Latin, folk, country and Gospel music and interview interesting people in the community. For the past three years I've been teaching beginning guitar through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute through Chico State University.
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