A lot of us will do anything not to be unhappy. I mean that quite literally. Anything.
We’ll date people we’re secretly a little grossed out by to pass the time because it’s easier than solitude. We’ll turn on the TV and watch the worst pablum ever made just to escape our fears and anxieties. And so on. Dissastifaction, regret, remorse, jealousy, all the little demons clawing away at our tiny minds.
We’re always running from them. Hard, fast, desperately. That act defines most of our lives. Displeasure is a stronger motivator than we realize, think, know. For the reason that really knowing you are running away from it involves you thinking about and thus experiencing your very own displeasure, your hurt, fear, pain. And so.
We give people the power to make us unhappy. Don’t we? We give people the power to make us jealous, afraid, anxious, worried, little. To hurt us in every conceivable way. To make our days not resonant with beauty and happiness and joy, but dark and dull with blindness, fear, anger.
The greatest power you can give anyone else is the power to make you unhappy. That is what power over another really is. And the question is who has power over you.
You think: the greatest power you can give anyone else is the power to hurt you. That’s not really true. In this life, the one who hurts you the hardest and most often is you. To be genuinely loved by someone, they must have not the “power to hurt you”, like the Western mind thinks — but the power to stop you from hurting you.
So you cannot go through life, as so many people hope, like a little Stoic. Giving no one at all the power to stop you from hurting you, because you don’t feel any pain. That’s not true. That way lies numbness, and the true opposite of happiness isn’t sadness, it’s numbness.
The power to make you unhappy. Who has it? Think about it for a moment. Probably everyone in your life. Probably a great deal number of people you’ve never met. Probably a large number of people you never will meet, who couldn’t care less about you, who don’t care whether you live or die. These people: idols. Celebrities, politicians, reality TV stars, whomever.
You see them. What do you feel? Sometimes you laugh, you cry, and so on. But sometimes you feel jealous, angry, anxious, spiteful, mean, cruel. Now you have given people you will never meet, who will never meet you, the power to make you unhappy.
Think about the absurdity of that for a second. These people don’t know you exist — they never will — and you have handed to them the truest truth in you: your happiness. That’s not a wise decision, is it?
It’s not wise because it’s not real. It’s an illusion. No one who doesn’t genuinely care whether you live or die should have the slightest power to make you unhappy. That is your choice, not theirs.
The flipside is also true. Power over you begins when you have the power to be happy. Not happy like a smiling instagram Kardashian. They’re deeply, furiously miserable, but I digress. Happy like a spring day. Genuinely happy. Only then can you really be loving, kind, gentle, full of grace and laughter and light and tears. And tears. Then there is beauty even, especially, in your suffering. The happiness of a spring day is full of sadness, isn’t it? The sun sets, the seasons pass, no one can hold it, catch it, capture it. It is evanescent. Just like life. Just like you. That is all why it is beautiful. That is genuine happiness. Not the absence of sadness, but the beauty of it.
You must give some people the power to make you unhappy. Of course you must. But those people you must choose with great care and understanding. You must really see them, and they must really see you.
For making another human heart unhappy is the greatest kind of violence. You will disagree with me, I’m sure — after all you’re a Very Sensible Person. A DC Comics reader, maybe. You will say: but surely there’s real violence. There is. And yet. Its roots are all in unhappiness, aren’t they? Happy people don’t steal, kill, hate. They love.
They just love.
That’s our challenge in this life. Just love. Happiness is the purpose of love, and love is the purpose of you, therefore the truest power in this life is the power to be happy. Right now, right here, in this eternal instant.
You don’t know it yet. You’ll learn it too late. Right now, you think it’s a cliche, a childish infatuation, not a concern for Men and Women of Steel.
One day, death will come knocking on your door. Like a long lost brother come to take you home.
And what you thought was steel in you will be revealed as glass. It will shatter in an instant.
All that will be left is your heart.
And it will ask: why did you waste my life giving people who never gave a damn about me, who never really saw me, the power to make me unhappy?