3 / Visual Indicators of Misery

Appearances are deceptive. An outward display of happiness can be complete betrayal while the lack of any external happiness doesn't mean that anyone is miserable. Many times, this comes down to the personality of the person.

From my own experience, I know that I cannot always be smiling though that doesn't mean that I'm not happy all the time. In fact, it's quite a narrow definition of happiness to believe that the outward appearances mean much to the inner workings of a man.

That's not to say that smiling, for example, doesn't help. The small connection with happy moments and smiling has psychological implications, and I imagine you could trick your brain into being somewhat delighted only by smiling. That's still no way to get out of being miserable.

This entire topic is faulty—if you're looking for visual indicators of misery on other people, the first question you should ask is not, "What can I see in others?" but "What does this search say about myself?"

For what difference does it make that someone else appears to be happy or appears to be unhappy? No difference to you. However, perhaps you can influence the force of misery with your visual indicators in one direction or another.

Maybe by smiling, I can make someone else's day a tiny bit better. I enjoy smiling back at another person, especially when they have no reason to have outwardly expressed such a profound and essential thing as happiness.

It's important also that I recognize your signals of misery. For example, when you are bored your mind wanders. This is visible to others whether you like it or not. It would take real effort to hide the fact that you cannot stand their boring story.

Why is that I'm so bored, though? Why can't I be present in the moment and listen for a bit? Why can't I occupy yourself with the subject at hand and make the "waste" of time come alive? This is, after all, your responsibility. It's not anyone else's job to make the minutes of the day pass for my benefit. Who is to say that all the "good" things I do aren't bad anyway?

I suppose it's me armed with reason, providence, morality, and philosophy. All the things that make up my reason, including my creator, tell me whether something is good—but those things also inform me that I cannot control the things that make me bored. I can't change a story to be more exciting or to have more drama to keep me interested.

However, I can make myself interested by using that moment to train myself in some skill or art. In the case of listening to a story, perhaps I'm improving my ability to listen—which I need to work on.

There you have it, no more misery.

...

Misery is failing to understand why everyone else is so happy.

There's a real danger in comparison of the self to others. It plagues us in many respects, especially in personal relationships and small groups we are close to. There's a constant competition to show everyone else, "My life is cooler than yours! Whatever you're doing is nothing compared to what I'm doing."

The solution to this competition is not to win it. It's to drop out of the game entirely and refuse to play by that scoreboard. That scoreboard involves a mix of money, appearances, people, and deceit—what good are these things in and of themselves?

(We could also argue as to whether or not they are wrong in and of themselves, but that's beside the point.)

The real wrong comes in the fact that there are so many people competing based on these measures. So, you've got to get out of it. You've got to get out of the rat race.

Does this mean you drop into another competition? Of course not. Another contest will have other contenders who you'll be tempted to put down and destroy in the course of battle. That is no path to peace.

How do you drop out of everything that everyone else seems to find important?

I don't think there's one easy step. It's a constant check. You check your desires at the door every time you recognize they are a distraction. In that case, you must develop your awareness and be able to see when your desires have become misaligned with a peaceful life.

For example, what is it when you are rushing that you seek to achieve? Much of it isn't even a desire to get where you're going—it's to get there faster than the people around you!

Your desire to do so seems to be natural and, thus, the avoidance of that desire will feel unnatural. You will have to force yourself to not desire the competition.

That comes down to a matter of habit. If your habit is to go at your speed and make sure that all of your actions and decisions are reasonable (with only the necessary regard for others), then you are on the right path.

Another example: When you feel the need to say something to prove your worth or increase your stature, remember the letters DNT. Do not talk. If you must, write these three letters down over and over on paper. It will seem like you are writing down what the other person is saying, and you will be less likely to speak.

The problem is not with speech, but with your motivation. Your motivation to speak is to increase your standing in the eyes of others rather than to provide value to the conversation. Do not talk.

That takes plenty of discipline and self-control, but maybe after a long while, it will become natural for you. It will become a default to not talk rather than to indulge in your speech. Your misery.

That's a fundamental tenet of misery—to follow it is to indulge it.

2 / Rushing into Misery

The most common example of misery I see is the intense rush that many people seem to be in. I suppose they have somewhere to be and they are determined to get there—perhaps they're more focused than I am.

I suppose, but that's never the case when I'm in a rush. If I'm late, I am stressed and I'm trying to alleviate that feeling by rushing in hopes that it will get me to my destination faster. The returns are marginal on that rushing, so I have to wonder—why am I doing it at all?

Further than that, however, rushing is a sign of restriction. It means that I'm obligated to something and now I must sacrifice all other endeavors in order to get there. It means that there are other people relying on me to be somewhere at sometime, and my time is no longer my own.

That's all fine and dandy until most of my time becomes dedicated to others. Then my obligations don't feel like obligations—they feel like hell. They feel like I'm trapped in an endless stream of appointments, calls, and meetings that don't lead to any work being done. It's miserable.

That's when I have to rush around. All because I relinquished my freedom to other people by committing to talk to them, meet with them, and give them my time. I've learned my lesson a couple of times in that arena.

That's not to say I'll never give my time to anyone—there are some people I thoroughly enjoy wasting my time with because it doesn't feel like such a waste of time with them. How sweet. But I sure won't give it all away. Not when my time is my freedom.

There's another form of rushing that comes from pure intensity. Drivers feel the need to rush not because they are in a rush but because it's a competition. I would switch to a second-person perspective, but who am I kidding? I fall into this trap way too often. It's about time I call myself out for it.

Anyone who is driving slow and impeding me from going my speed is a moron, and anyone driving faster and calling me a moron is a miserable fool who tries to hard.

That attitude is a habit of misery. It comes because we're constantly comparing ourselves to others and letting them set the tone on our life. 

An old mindset would be to fix the misery, not eliminate it. Under that framework, you would pass cars that go slower than you desire and flip off every driver that goes past you. That should fix the problem and make yourself feel better about your own speed on the road.

That's just succumbing to misery, because it means I'm active in the competition. I'm playing the game. Much like an meeting holds power over me because I decided to attend it, now the game of driving holds authority over me because I'm deciding to play it.

Maybe I should stay off the roads entirely. Wait, no. I can't play the game, that's all. I'll end up in a rush, a straight shot to misery.

1 / An Introduction

I don't expect it to end for a while.

The thing about misery is that it's so easy to label others as unhappy fools, but that says more about me than anyone else. Why am I so worried about if someone else is miserable? It feels perverse—as if by labeling someone else as unhappy I can elevate my own position.

It's a joke.

We're all miserable and we always have been since the beginning of time. That's not me being pessimistic—every ounce of greed, lust, envy, and hatred exerted by a human has been driven by misery. For some reason, we're not satisfied with the life our Creator breathes into us. Whether or not you capitalize Creator doesn't matter—there must be a source of life just as there is a source of misery.

Every bad action—whether it's being a dick on the road or murder—comes from the same birthplace. Misery. It's a plague that tries to bring all of us down in any way possible. It wants you to spend your day planning how to make everyone around you miserable, too.

It's not easy to tell when someone else is miserable. Outer appearances are not the most reliable indicator, and I must caution you of that. It's easy to observe others and say, "That woman is miserable. She's rich, buys nice things, she's vain and cares only about her appearances—she must be so unhappy."

That's only a way to placate your miserable self for not living the life she lives. That means you desire what she has and envy her for the fact you don't have it. Do you really expect your little bit of complaining to bring you to happiness?

Misery, as you'll discover throughout this treatise, is something you understand by looking inward. You have an incentive to believe that everyone else is miserable—if they are, it seems like you're happier relative to them. It's much more difficult to look at yourself in the mirror and say with complete honesty that you're miserable and that's why you do the things you do. There's no incentive to do that. In fact, it destroys you. It kills your sense of self.

If it does, that's the best thing that could ever happen to you.

The sense of self that's killed when you realize how much of your actions are driven by your own inability to be content is a false self. All of the measures you take to placate yourself are to no avail. They're useless, yet you identify them quickly in other people. (Only for the purposes of calling them out.)

Instead of that, call yourself out. What you're about to read is a collection of observations on misery. Sometimes it's my own misery, sometimes it's the misery of others. I'll try to bring solutions to the table, though I can tell you now what it comes down to:

Intention.

Do you know how easy it would be for me to put away this writing and go back to feeling bad for myself for not writing enough? Oh, what a worthless life I might live if I could only muster up the laziness to indulge in my own misery. Maybe I could even bring a few friends along for the ride, and we could all wallow in sadness together.

It takes deliberate action every day to decide not to be miserable like so many people around me. I know they're around you, too. That's why you've picked this up and continued to read it.

Before we go any further, however, you have to make a choice. Between happiness and misery. Between good and evil. Ask yourself, and be honest with yourself as you do:

Will you choose life?

Or, will you choose death?