Well, another year shot down the sewer. Time to make some changes. Yessir, 2010 will be different--now let me see, what should I put on that list of New Year's resolutions?
Hold on there, Wild Bill ! What say we put the new year on hold for a moment. That's it...relax. Let's talk about something directly related to those resolutions, and that's the subject of happiness. If people were really happy with themselves, they wouldn't feel the need to make all those changes, right?
Funny thing, this happiness stuff. The more you chase after it, the more it eludes you. There must be a trick to it somewhere. Now we're getting warmer ! The trick to realizing happiness is to first understand that there IS a trick, and that the trick is on us.
Let's face it, we humans are never satisfied--it's either a thing or a person we don't feel complete without, or some circumstance of our lives that we would change if we could. The culprit is desire--it's what chains us to this world. Only by recognizing that to some degree we will ALWAYS be in this state of unfulfilled desire (until we've evolved enough to master desire) are we likely to amiably accept life on its own terms. This is the irony. The cosmic joke.
Now, just in case I lost you back there, what follows is a mini-play about two friends: Fred, who lives in the moment, and Arnie, who...well, lives lots of other places.
THE BRASS RING
Scene: A New Year's Eve party.
FRED: Hey Arnie, you don't look so happy--what's the matter, itchy underwear?
ARNIE: Naw, I asked my boss for a raise and he muttered something about hell freezing over.
FRED: Wow, too bad...I see you've still got that black eye from when your girlfriend punched your lights out.
ARNIE: Yeah, I need a new job and a kinder, gentler relationship.
FRED: Think that will make you happy?
ARNIE: Damn right.
FRED: Maybe, but can you think of a time when there wasn't something you wanted to change about your life, even if only a little?
ARNIE: Well...no, I guess not.
FRED: And as you went through the days and month and years wanting something to be different, what time was it?
ARNIE: Oh, I see what you're getting at--it was always NOW.
FRED: Right, so if you can't be happy NOW, when WILL you be happy?
ARNIE: Maybe tomorrow?
FRED: Today is the tomorrow you dreamed about yesterday.
ARNIE: 1995...now THAT was the year I had it all !
FRED: The past is overrated. It only looks good to us through hindsight...come to think of it, that's the only way we can look at it. But if I know you, your head was stuck in the past and the future then too, living every moment but the one you're living.
ARNIE: So how does one live in the moment?
FRED: When I was a kid, and the carnival came to town, I would ride the merry-g0 round, There was a brass ring you had to try to grab as you circled around--whoever got it would win this giant stuffed panda bear--but the ring was always just out of reach. I'd get on and off those pretty horses, time after time, intent on spearing that ring...but I never got it. I never saw anyone else who did either.After a while it dawned on me that the ring was there just to keep me on the merry-go-round.
ARNIE: [guzzles his drink] Hee hee hee ha ha ha hoo hoo...hack...cough...choke...N ow I see it! Everybody's running around searching for something outside of themselves-
FRED: Like the other day when you turned the house upside down looking for your car keys, only to find them half an hour later in your pocket.
ARNIE: So, if I'm not happy with things the way they are--right this minute--then I'll NEVER be happy, because it's always now, and even though things change, things are always going to be the way that they are.
FRED: Go to the head of the class.
ARNIE: [frowns] But what about dreams...shouldn't I follow my dreams?
FRED: Of course--dreams are what life is about ! It's just that most people have trouble reconciling the dream the way it appears in their imaginations with the dream the way it turns up in what we call reality--they're never exactly the same, you know.
ARNIE: I THINK I get all of that...but my head is spinning.
FRED: So is the world.
ARNIE: I'm getting dizzy.
FRED: Not as dizzy as you're going to be--here comes another round of champagne.
ARNIE: It's almost midnight. Happy New Year, Fred !
FRED: Happy NOW Year, Arnie.
[Festoons, fireworks, dogs howling]
Fred and Arnie turn to look at a television in the corner of the room. As millions watch across the nation, the giant glowing ball in Times Square drops squarely onto Dick Clark's head, knocking him unconscious. A minute later he jump up, grabs the microphone and says, "Hell, that didn't faze me folks--I'm ninety-seven years old and still feel like a kid! [Leans into the camera] THE SECRET IS TO KEEP ON DANCIN ! "