Sunday, September 13, 2009

Big Question, Summer Reading, and Oedipus

Though somewhat a work in progress, my big question is: "How do we, as humans, manufacture our own happiness merely through our thoughts?" This question has been prominent in my life for four or five years now. Do we have the capacity to just wake up one morning and decide to be happy? Granted, I understand that conditions such as depression may lessen one's ability to choose happiness, yet I believe that, to an extent, it is possible for everyone. For a long time, my shyness and often self-conscious outlook prevented me from feeling completely happy. Sophomore year, I became a section leader for the marching band and was forced to break out of my shell in order to lead others. Through this, I attended a leadership workshop hosted by Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, a band director, motivational speaker, and so much more. Among dozens of others, one thing he said really had an impact on me. He said, "Act like you want to be, and you'll be like you want to act." Since I wanted to be happy, I began to act that way, which began a phase of my life full of happiness. This transformation, however, did not occur over a day or even a short period of time, which is where I think a lot of people get hung up. People try to be happy, yet when they don't get immediate results, they give up.

This question appeared in my summer reading book as well. I read Atonement, and the main character, Briony, was stuck in a constant prison of guilt for a rash decision she made early in her life. She strives for atonement her entire life, yet she never atones herself. Since she cannot forgive herself, there is no way for her to reach atonement. Briony never had happy thoughts because she was so burdened with guilt. I believe that as humans, we can not only manufacture our own happiness but also, our own unhappiness. The power to be happy lies within our own minds.

I discovered this question while reading Oedipus Rex also. When Oedipus discovers the atrocities of his marriage and children, he destroys his own happiness by gouging out his own eyes, thus condemning himself to a life of blindness. The discovery of his paternal murder and marriage to his mother presents the opposite side of this question. Oedipus demonstrates that under some circumstances, it may be impossible to create your own happiness, for sometimes, the unhappiness is too great.

1 comment:

  1. Emily, I love how you chose to focus on happiness---how to attain happiness and whether or not it is attainable.