Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Just where is the path to a better life?

I'm very curious about self-help and self-development. With two very different goals - firstly, to advance my career and, secondly, to help manage my depression. Many successful people even in the creative arty world have good things to say about this book or that book. And I've had a few people pass through the various studios trying to get me into this or that and I've always been a little resistant to it all. I have many reservations, questions, opinions on the subject, positive as well as negative and would love to talk them through. But there's too much for one post and too many scattered thoughts for a series of posts so I'll just touch on some stuff here while it's on my mind.

There seem to be two main types of self-development books/seminars/cults/scams etc.:

a) How to achieve your goals by persuading people to do what you want (ie. how to shaft your fellow man).

b) How to achieve inner peace and happiness (ie. how to make you think you're happy).

For this post, I'm just talking about the latter... mostly. One of the biggest self-help and self-development ideas that runs across both types but is key to the latter seems to be that we create our own reality based on perception and how we communicate ideas to ourselves. This is called many different things and there seem to be many different ways to get there but, basically, there is a big push on the idea that you can make yourself happy. There are thousands of books on the subject. There are groups, cults and whatever all based around that idea.

Many of them are trying to take your money (to make themselves happy I guess - living by example) but, if they get results and you get what you pay for, is that really a bad thing? That's a whole other subject I guess.

But the idea of altering your perception to make yourself happy, to me, seems so unbelievably selfish. It requires pretending that the shit in the world doesn't exist. It requires not acknowledging any of that bad stuff. It requires voluntary and practised blindness.

Now there is a view that happiness works with the trickle-down effect. Someone once made this argument to me who was part of a self-help group (kind of like scientology-lite). Well, the trickle down effect in economics is utter bullshit because there are people at the top trying their damndest to make sure nothing trickles anywhere. And it's bullshit when applied to happiness too. Because it requires voluntary and practised blindness.

You can't help make others happy when you are blind to what it is that makes them unhappy. You can't help heal society when you are blind to what is making it ill. You can't stand against injustice when you are blind to all negativity.

Not only that, but while you're totally blind and practising 'b' (making yourself happy), you are leaving yourself completely open to being manipulated and exploited by the people practising the 'a' of self-development: how to shaft your fellow man.

Far from trickling down, the day you find your own inner peace and become truly happy, is the day you become a danger to society. Because you will fall in line with whatever is happening around you regardless of consequences. Because, whatever is happening on the outside, inside you're completely deluded.

No, as far as I can see, the only time that someone can be truly happy and for it to be a good thing is when not one single person on this planet is suffering. Not one child is hungry. Not one person oppressed. Am I wrong? Is it right to be happy when others are suffering?

I don't know. I don't think so.

If you see someone who really looks at peace today, do me a favour and give them a slap and tell them to wake the hell up.


Andy Latham said...

I don't think we can ever be completely and utterly happy without, as you say, blocking out the world.

We can however be happier. And we do that by helping people. Think of that guy the other day that signalled the imminent bus arrival. He went out of his way to help you, and in the process made you a lot happier. More than likely he felt a little happier too.

The point is that the trickle down effect does work, but not in the way people seem to think. It's not your happiness that will make others happy, it's THEIR happiness that will make YOU happy....or happier at least.

Maybe if everyone did just one little thing every day to make the life of another person just that little bit happier, the world might not be quite the shitty place it is.

Quite some time ago I commented on your blog, saying that I thought that humans were fundamentally selfish creatures. I still believe this. However it is a trait that can be, and often is, changed. How is it changed? By the act of another person helping you and thus inspiring you to think a little more about the other people around you.

Jacqueline said...


Why are all these strangers slapping me?

Bitter Animator said...

Gah! I knew I would end up offending someone with this post and, as much of a pain in the ass I can be (and I can be), I don't want to do that.

After all, what is getting me talking about it is that I am getting interested in it myself. I'm just throwing out thoughts here. Not saying they are right or wrong.

Mr. Trombley said...

Dear Sir,

The Buddha says: "He who loves 50 people has 50 woes; he who loves no one has no woes."

So, yeah. Part of being enlightened involves ceasing to be offended about the horrible things that happen in the world.

Of course, being enlightened is not necessarily like being happy.

Red Pill Junkie said...

Yeah, I have an issue with all those assholes that go and buy "The Secret" because Oprah tells them so, and read it eagerly in the hope it will help them get a Ferrari or have their wives grow bigger tits magically —or their husbands bigger dongs.

Everyone wants to feel like a superstar; and yet superstars keep getting into rehab for drug addiction of failed suicide attempts. How do you figure that out?

On the one hand, I understand that in this life one can't be completely selfless. Vincent van Gogh tried that; he tried to live what he thought was a truly Christian life, brought a poor & sick prostitute with her son to live with him, and even wanted to marry her. What he almost managed was to destroy himself (in the end, the woman left him, out of pity I suppose).

But, there's another kernel of wisdom I found in the books of CastaƱeda: the best way to stop worrying about your life, is worrying about others.

Let's get something clear here: This idea of 'happyness' that TV and deodorant adds is always feeding us is pure bullshit. There is no such thing as a perennial state of bliss, just as there is no such thing as a marriage without problems or fights.

What there IS, is a state of mind when you accept that you are being with a purpose in this life. And that life in itself is a precious gift, despite all the hurdles and pain that comes with it.

A single person can't change the world and the fate of millions. But remember the words of the Talmud: "He who saves a single human life, saves the world entire". That we can do, and the moment we do that, we will know what happiness really is.

Sorry for the long post :-)

Bitter Animator said...

Mr.T, what Mr.Buddha says strikes me as very true but is he saying that is a path to enlightenment?
I'd have issues with that thinking.

Not having a woe because you're a billy-no-mates ignorant of anything going on around you doesn't strike me as being all that enlightened.

But there's quite a bit about the Buddhist end of things I don't subscribe to, particularly when it comes to paths of least resistance and so on.

Red Pill Junkie, I imagine there is a huge amount of truth in your quote - "the best way to stop worrying about your life, is worrying about others".

Unknown said...

Sorry if you wanted a break from this subject, but I just read a bunch of your posts on Flash and whether or not it's ruining the industry. I'm wondering if you've ever tried any other computer animation programs that better accommodate actual animation.

I've been trying out Toon Boom lately. The "automatic lip syncing" tool could be a bad sign, but the dynamic coloring tool could actually let someone draw more keyframes than they otherwise would.

Jacqueline said...


I luv it!

Can I use it?

Bitter Animator said...

Absolutely, Jacqueline!

Ryan, I have tried Toon Boom (albeit a couple of years ago) and one called Moho. Both had some features I liked (particularly being able to use 3D space) and I could see them being great fun and really useful for a short film or personal project (as Flash is) but would leave me with similar problems when adopted industry-wide for television and so on.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I am not really sure what to say here, other than this post seems incredibly negative. I think that we all have a right and a responsibility to seek happiness in one form or another. Do you want to sit next to cranky, miserable people all day long? Think of what commuting would be like if at least some of those people weren't seeking personal happiness!

I am all about trying to be a happier person, but I am NOT one to ignore the plight of others. I think we have every right to be happy when others are leading miserable existences, so long as we are not the direct cause of said misery. However! I think we also have a responsibility to help those in need, which in turn makes me happy. It is a whole vicious cycle of happy. (Don't even get me started on the whole concept of karma, cause I could be here all day.)

But I do agree with you that nobody should be really happy unless the suffering is gone. If you are really all that blissful, then you are ignoring the BS in the world.

Unknown said...

If you are waiting for everthing to be the way 'you' think it 'should' will be waiting.

Look here:
let me know what you think.
All the best

Bitter Animator said...

Well, sure it would take forever... if all I did was wait.

Thanks for the link. I hadn't seen that before, although I've listened to some of Alan Watts a long time ago. Great idea to put it to animation, especially that piece.