Happy-ness

I love technology. And I love being outdoors. When those two worlds intersect, it’s orgasmic. Wires and tree branches and batteries – oh my.

And so, as I watched the movie, “Into the Wild” on my Droid X, while swinging in a new ultralight ENO backpacker’s hammock, all was well with the world. And while it was my second time watching this filmography of the life of Chris McCandless and his attempts to throw off the materialism of the modern world in his quest for true peace and harmony through naturalism and the adventure therein, I forgot one scene at the very end.

Having eaten what Chris thought was a wild edible, he discovers that he has in fact consumed a poisonous plant with very similar characteristics. Locked into his campsite on all sides by a raging impassible river, he is left alone to die as he chronicles his final thoughts in his books and journals.

His last recorded entry, read like this:

Happiness is only real when shared”.

Holding a note that reads: “I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!” Chris McCandless, August 1991

2 weeks ago in our small group study we covered the longest recorded prayer of Christ before his crucifixion in the writings of his disciple, John.

There, we see I believe the true heart of Christ in the following words,

“My prayer is not for them alone. [the apostles] I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are on – I in them, and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then they world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

And so as I sit and reflect on the words of a young man who struggled with many of the things I am now struggling with, specifically the alignment of my white middle class protect at all costs value system, with my surrender to a God who requires only that I put everything I have in His hands, I see something a littler clearer.

We were created, for fellowship – and relationship. When asked by a student at Oxford University how he could believe in the idea of the Trinity, noted Christian Apologist Ravi Zacharias responded enthusiastically that the Trinity must be real…that if God were uni – or singular, with no Son or Holy Spirit – who did God love before he created us…or the angels….? Who did he talk to? No, for Ravi, the Trinity made complete sense, in this regard.

The Trinity reinforces what we know of Him existentially – that He is eternally love…eternally fellowship and relationship.

And so I think about Chris today, and I think about Christ. Chris’ last words, and one of Christ’s last prayers. In the end, before departing this world and entering the next, the inexorable and mutual understanding – and exhortation to all of us – to be “sticky”.

Being “sticky” involves being in relationships with those people you profess to love. As I think about my mother this Mother’s Day weekend, I remember something she told me in the darkest heart of her trials with my emotionally distant father. She said,

“you can feel more alone in a room with someone, than if you were all by yourself”.

…remembering the isolation she felt when my father would busy himself in the barn of their 100 year old farm house estate. The silence of sitting in the same room at night with no conversation.

As I remember the coldest moments of her depression, I’m reflecting and taking inventory of the moments recently shared – and not shared – with my wife. Reflecting on conversations with other guys who’ve noted that life’s demons usually attack the time reserved for intimate relationship with their wives. How silence, or willful physical or emotional absence, is utterly crippling to the soul of your counterpart. That silence in a relationship is the most dangerous of all symptoms.

My mom told me later on in life that I was a different kind of kid. She said that I would go out to the cold galvanized steel fence of our yard in Patchogue, and stand there with my hands outstretched and holding the wire links, scanning up and down the street looking for passing kids that might want to come in and play with me.

35 years later, I’m still “standing at the fence”, only this time I have kayaks and backpacks and Pathfinder 4×4’s behind me to entice passerby’s. The part of me created to relate is as or more alive than it has ever been. Many of you have experienced that with me. Some of you are about to, and you just don’t know it yet. I love my life lived, with you involved in my story.

But what is the ultimate evidence of a life wholeheartedly given to Christ? He laid it out there in black and white – “they’ll know I sent you by your love for one another. For your fellowship with me, Dad, and the Holy Spirit.” But also for your unity. For your sticky relationships. Relationships that involve calling and going and eating and talking and most likely forgiving over and over and over again. Something beyond a beauty pageant wave in the church parking lot. Something beyond, “I’ll be praying for you, brother”. Something beyond, “Oh, those poor people” in the comfort of my love seat sofa.

“Happiness is not real, unless shared.”

2000 years prior….”….that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you”.

I’m not going to wait until the end to figure that part out.

Who am I withholding myself from?

What are my emotional “barns”?  How do I burn them down?

How do I go deeper with my relationships, and am I willing to expose myself to things that will probably hurt at worst, feel awkward at best, in the short term.

I think so.

See you at the fence…..

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One Response to Happy-ness

  1. Elliott Hermann says:

    Michael,
    Have been enjoying your thoughts , they have been forwarded to me my my best friend, John Ehrlich, in Columbia, SC. He and I bought into the Flux together as a package deal over a year ago. He is still successfully trading the futures, I was having great success, then had some devastating losses due to some overzealous mistakes. Not the fault of the flux just mine. Gone back to stocks, doing ok. Wish I could use the flux though.
    You are an excellent writer. your thoughts are very insightful, and a tonic for the soul. They even have an appeal to a 60 yr. old Buddhist like me. The Buddha taught that we suffer from desire, or attachment. I have been practicing as a Buddhist all of my adult life, have been meditating for over 40 years, and was a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. I have given many lectures in both public and educational settings. I have considered myself, at times, an adequate writer. You have an informal, unpretentious style that is a gift. Keep at it.
    Just recently, I gave a lecture at Wilkes Community College, on “Practical Aspects of Buddhism”, I could only talk for 30 min., so I couldn’t go into great detail. What I told the students that they should consider, if nothing else, is what Buddha said about the nature of attachment and its relation to suffering. I explain it like this, “We suffer because we either want what we don’t have, or we have what we don’t want.” Those two conditions go a long way toward describing the human condition.
    Keep at the writing, you have a gift. Search, Thomas Merton, “In the Soul of the Serene Disciple.”

    Sincerely, Elliott

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