The Blue Bird, and the black dog.

We are alone, absolutely alone on this chance planet: and, amid all the forms of life that surround us, not one, excepting the dog, has made an alliance with us…. The Blue Bird authorMaurice Maeterlinck

It was during a period suffering the black dog of depression around 1906 that Maeterlinck conceived the fairy tale of two children searching for the elusive bluebird of happiness. Diagnosed with neurasthenia, suffering from fatigue, pain and anxiety, he wrote an epic fantasy around what’s most important to the human spirit.

We just attended Positive Psychology powerhouse The Mind Room’s showing of doco ‘Project Happiness‘, chronicling the meeting together of American, Nigerian, and Tibetan teenagers with luminaries to pose the question: how to be happy? The Dalai Lama had no magical answer to this, as Buddhists drop the egoistic self. His Holiness said: “Too much anger, too much hatred. Affection, compassion, sense of community, honesty, truthfulness – these are the key elements to counter mental unhappiness“. The film’s key message was that happiness arose out of loving service to others. Yet I know many patient carers, or nurses, who’re profoundly miserable at performing their often thankless duties. The prostitute who’s trapped into providing pleasure may seek solace in opiates to numb the unpleasantness. A dozen years as a volunteer skifield paramedic left me with memories of a toxic culture driven by authoritarian protocol. The environment of funseekers egged on by friends to legendary feats, followed by mobiles video-ing our efforts to clean up the casualty didn’t help there. Simply caring won’t create happiness, indeed it brings much pain when vulnerable refugees are concerned.

Event coordinator's namesake
Event coordinator’s namesake

Sailability is a fortnightly outing for special-needs young adults in Access dinghies, which can’t be capsized. It’s loads of fun. Though ably supported by Hastings Yacht club womenfolk, handling the weighty lead keel that’s keeping the boat upright results in a male dominated event. And a very blokey one, with banter and bluster, and laughter comes from ridicule instead of loving kindness (excepting the saintly coordinator). It’s simplistic to consider sarcasm and compassion as mutually exclusive. I remember a brotherhood of bikers whose Pres was nicknamed ‘Dropper’.

Sailability at Hastings Yacht Club
Sailability at Hastings Yacht Club

Answers to our innate need to help others take many forms. As many as there’s self-help books on the subject. The path taken must be your own, and renowned Buddhist, Richard Gere’s answer to the ‘I want to be happy’ demand is that one must “move towards happiness and away from suffering”, which paraphrases the Dalai Lama from his book ‘The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World’. It’s a journey. Metaphorically so rather than a tourist adventure – doubtless the culture shock upon those kids return from impoverished Dharamshala to wealthy USA was disturbing.

For a simple solution: don orange robes and chant to Kṛṣṇa. Or else embrace the many colours of life’s tapestry, and even lose aversion to the blackness. For in craving to be happy, it proves to be elusive.

To read more about mucking about in boats, continue here.

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