Monday, March 29, 2004


I think it's a given that there will be high points and low points in our lives, happiness followed by suffering and vice versa. Many people though only want the happiness without the suffering. One is tempted to ask "why can't it always be like this?".

First, I'd like to talk about the cycle. Joy and pain are both part of the human condition. We really wouldn't be able to empathize with others if we're not familiar with both conditions. I mean how could someone who's never been hurt in his or her life sympathize with someone who's experienced many trials in his or her life? The former might claim that "everything will be all right" when the latter knows that isn't true (I'm the type who doesn't believe that EVERYTHING can be solved by your friends, although A LOT can be shared with your friends).

Second, these polar opposites (and everything in between) gives us variety and it is because of these that we come to appreciate them. Joy, for example, wouldn't be as cherished if sadness did not exist. Another way to think of it is this: Among high school and grade school students (and even some employees), there's the popular saying "TGIF" (Thank God It's Friday), marking the start of the weekend. If the entire week was just that, weekends, then Friday wouldn't be so special. They'd probably be so bored that they'd want to set up the entire institution that is school.

The variety of experiences also makes us want to strive for what we want. For example, if we want to look for happiness (and each person has a different concept of happiness), we must strive for it amidst confusion, despair, and the other states of mind. And as often mentioned, it's not always about the destination but the journey. In the end, we might not have found our goal, but that's not always what's important. It's what we've felt during the whole process, how the relationships we have had changed (and how we made new ones), and how it's personally changed us. Falling in love and failing at it is like that. It's perhaps one of the most painful experiences we can feel, yet the realization that we can be in that state and the self-awareness we obtain is almost worth all the pain (to some... there are naturally those who end up fearing the pain too much that they give up all attempts to obtain happiness in order to avoid feeling hurt).

Why can't it always be like this? Would you change if things were always the same? Would you grow? What else could you learn from something static and stagnant? Of course changed is a double-edged sword. The events unfolding could signal of something better, or something worse (and sometimes, both). But either way, change forces us to adapt, to change as well. If adversity comes, we can only grow stronger by overcoming it (but of course, sometimes there are prices to pay to achieve this). If pleasure arrives, it is made more enjoyable by the realization that it was previously unavailable or inaccessible in the past. And without the ability to change, we wouldn't have freedom. To exercise freedom, after all, means that we alter our circumstances. It's not in the "possibility" that we have freedom, but in the "actuality", of exercising our so-called freedom.

So all of this begs the question, are there happy endings? I like Dean's stance that it applies "only to a certain point". Because after a certain point, reality intrudes and the cycle begins once again. If I end my narrative or story here, sure, you have a happy ending. But if I push it farther, the ending might not be happy (and similarly, if I cut it short, it also might not end up with a happy ending). One example is the prodigal son in the Bible. If I cut my story short when the prodigal son has ran out of money, it has a sad ending and will probably be used as a didactic parable to discourage rebellious children. If the story ended at the point when his father accepted him into the family again, you have a plain happy ending. But the point it did end was after that, when the elder son complained and the father reprimanded him. Here, we see that the story is bittersweet. Once sympathizes with the "good son" who's worked hard all these years yet gets nothing out of the entire incident. We feel his angst. Yet at the same time, we see God reprimand him. As well as know the greater future in store for us because of God's generosity (all of this in the context of the story, mind you). (It even begs the question which son are you?)

Happy endings? Well, from my point of view, there is no grand storyteller to say "it ends here" and "no it doesn't end here". We decide whether a chapter in our lives ends or not. No one can really say to us "this phase of your lives ends here". They may try but in the end, it's up to us to believe what they claim or not. I mean many might even profess "this phase of your life has ended already... you've just graduated!" but when you look at it, graduation is an imposition by society. It's really up to me to accept what society is claiming to be true or not. I can easily refute "graduation was not the end of that chapter of my life but the beginning", etc. I make the decision where it ends and where it starts. It is actually in our hands to decide whether we have a happy ending or not. (And as I said before, sometimes, it's not the end that matters, but the journey.)


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