Treasure Chest

Do we really want to be unconditionally happy? Do we really want to wake up?

The first thing I want you to understand, if you really want to wake up, is that you don’t want to wake up. The first step to waking up is to be honest enough to admit to yourself that you don’t like it. You don’t want to be happy. Want a little test? Let’s try it. It will take you exactly one minute. You could close your eyes while you’re doing it or you could keep them open. It doesn’t really matter.

Think of someone you love very much, someone you’re close to, someone who is precious to you, and say to that person in your mind, “I’d rather have happiness than have you.” See what happens. “I’d rather be happy than have you. If I had a choice, no question about it, I’d choose happiness.” How many of you felt selfish when you said this? Many, it seems. See how we’ve been brainwashed? See how we’ve been brainwashed into thinking, “How could I be so selfish?” But look at who’s being selfish. Imagine somebody saying to you, “How could you be so selfish that you’d choose happiness over me?” Would you not feel like responding, “Pardon me, but how could you be so selfish that you would demand I choose you above my own happiness?!”

A woman once told me that when she was a child her Jesuit cousin gave a retreat in the Jesuit church in Milwaukee. He opened each conference with the words: “The test of love is sacrifice, and the gauge of love is unselfishness.” That’s marvelous! I asked her, “Would you want me to love you at the cost of my happiness?” “Yes,” she answered. Isn’t that delightful? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? She would love me at the cost of her happiness and I would love her at the cost of my happiness, and so you’ve got two unhappy people, but long live love!

So there it is: People don’t really want to grow up, people don’t really want to change, people don’t really want to be happy. As someone so wisely said to me, “Don’t try to make them happy, you’ll only get in trouble. Don’t try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it irritates the pig.”

So it’s useless. “Give up, give up, give up,” I say to myself. Say your thing and get out of here. And if they profit, that’s fine, and if they don’t, too bad! (…)

I was saying that we don’t want to be happy. We want other things. Or let’s put it more accurately: We don’t want to be unconditionally happy. I’m ready to be happy provided I have this and that and the other thing. But this is really to say to our friend or to our God or to anyone, “You are my happiness. If I don’t get you, I refuse to be happy.” It’s so important to understand that. We cannot imagine being happy without those conditions. That’s pretty accurate. We cannot conceive of being happy without them. We’ve been taught to place our happiness in them.

So that’s the first thing we need to do if we want to come awake, which is the same thing as saying: if we want to love, if we want freedom, if we want joy and peace and spirituality. In that sense, spirituality is the most practical thing in the whole wide world. I challenge anyone to think of anything more practical than spirituality as I have defined it—not piety, not devotion, not religion, not worship, but spirituality—waking up, waking up! Look at the heartache everywhere, look at the loneliness, look at the fear, the confusion, the conflict in the hearts of people, inner conflict, outer conflict.

 Suppose somebody gave you a way of getting rid of all of that? Suppose somebody gave you a way to stop that tremendous drainage of energy, of health, of emotion that comes from these conflicts and confusion. Would you want that? Suppose somebody showed us a way whereby we would truly love one another, and be at peace, be at love. Can you think of anything more practical than that? But, instead, you have people thinking that big business is more practical, that politics is more practical, that science is more practical. What’s the earthly use of putting a man on the moon when we cannot live on the earth?

– Anthony de Mello – Awareness

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