Cambrian: Opinion

Younger cousin’s mantra, and lessons on the nature of happiness


A cousin of mine recently visited for a few days. He is six years younger than I am. I changed his diapers when I was little, and my older sister and I babysat him at his home in the Verdugo Hills in Glendale.

We were petrified of the noises outside on the hill, their German shepard howling with the coyotes and just the random sounds the house itself would emit (we later found out it was haunted – they knew better than to tell us then!). However, we were entrusted with the duty of taking care of this baby and, by golly, we were going to do a bang-up job of it!

And we did. Great memories. We loved it, looking back on it the next day.

Now, 57 years later, he shifted my mindset again. In a fairly comfortable place in life, he decided to take the opportunity to leave a job he’d formerly enjoyed, because the politics of the place were becoming more and more unethical. Why exert so much energy for something you couldn’t support? That was not new to me. What I liked was his new mantra, “Memories, not dreams.”

Does one need the newest or best gadget? Not only from an environmental standpoint but economically speaking, we so often seek to buy happiness. Of course, many of us are aware you cannot “buy” it but … sometimes we still try.

Artist, Agnes Martin (1912-2004) described the pursuit of happiness quite eloquently if not Zen-like:

“What we really want to do is serve happiness.

We want everyone to be happy, never unhappy, even for a moment.

We want the animals to be happy. The happiness of every living thing is what we want.

We want it very much but we cannot bring it about.

We cannot make even one individual happy.

It seems that this thing that we want most of all is out of our reach.

But we were born to serve happiness and we do serve it.

The confusion is due to our lack of awareness of real happiness. Happiness is pervasive.

It is everywhere. … When we are unhappy it is because something is covering our minds and we are not able to be aware of happiness. When the difficulty is past we find happiness again.

It is not that happiness is all around us. That is not it at all. It is not this or that or in this or that.

It is an abstract thing.

Happiness is unattached. Always the same. It does not appear and disappear. It is not sometimes more and sometimes less. It is our awareness of happiness that goes up and down.

Happiness is our real condition.

It is reality.

It is life.

In this life, life is represented by beauty and happiness.

If you are completely unaware of them you are not alive.

The times when you are not aware of beauty and happiness you are not alive.

By awareness of life we are inspired to live.

Life is consciousness of life itself.

The measure of your life is the amount of beauty and happiness of which you are aware.”

(Actually, I suggest you read the whole article — — lovely!)

So, what I take this all to mean is, happiness is an inside job. My cousin leaving his job was not because he wanted to earn more money or work less — in fact, he’ll probably work more on some entrepreneurial venture or another. It was because he is aware of beauty and happiness.

He’d rather have the memory of making something of his own from the ground up than earn a lot of money in a cushy job toward some supposed “dream of plenty and bigger and better, etc.” and then go camp in the desert more often. Simple.

How can you simply enjoy life today? What’s stopping you?

Dianne Brooke’s column appears weekly and is special to The Cambrian. Visit her website at Email her at