PrevNextTop85-01-31* Letter From Jim, Happiness

[[ My response to to this letter. ]]

thursday evening 1-31-85

Dear Jon,

Is this tacky or is this tacky? Well, I thought it would give you a rush of hominess, like apple pie and ... and not dogs. I just had an accident. I went to the refrigerator and took a swig of milk. I still had it in my mouth as I flopped down upon my bean bag to commence writing this letter. But when I made contact, chest first, with the bean bag, I lost my mouthful of milk! Do things like that ever happen to you, Jon? Or is it just me?

I enjoyed your letter very much, even more than the snow-covered Norwegian landscape. Is that what that was? I think the snow must have melted and washed away what was left. The only thing I saw was the postal cancel stamp and what looked to be the remnants of a red cottage buried in obscurity. Are you alright, Jon? Seriously, I was reminded of the good friend I have in you as I read your thoughts, your questions, your intentions, and your grammatical errors.

Tell Alan I envy his ability to up and leave his job to travel for a month. I would sure like to join you. But I'm strapped here, in the work force, acruing my millions little nest egg. A few years ago, I was learning what you were forgetting, and today I'm earning what you are spending. Your travelling and getting your cards & letter now has prompted me to dig out my old pictures of travels past and to relive those adventurous days. I've even made a couple of albums and written some poetry to accompany the pictures.

So, we both have younger brothers joining the state of holy matrimony in a few months. Ah ... the rashness of youth. You asked me, “What's wrong? My brother's 31 ... I'm 35.” What does it mean to be 35? I think the problem here is one of numbers and their use in quantifying time. {31, ..., 35}. These numbers are too small, they give on the sense of understanding what they represent. Let's change the scale: Jon, you are 12,775 days old, your brother is 11,315 days old. There now, that's not so bad is it? Our inability to comprehend numbers of this magnitude now equals our inability to grasp the meaning of age and quantification of time. It is, therefore, I submit, a more accurate and appropriate perspective. Let's see, I'm 11,863 days old, Oh my God! I can't do that many pullups!

Now let's move on to my work. Hard time in Santa Cruz, Jon. Layoffs at Ryan-McFarland. 20% of our staff, in Aptos only, went out the door. I was in the restroom at the time, so I survived. Perhaps COBOL is undergoing its slow death that it so justly deserves. Anyway, I'm still moving up in the world. I'm now in the UNIX group and programming exclusively in 'C'. Wow, just what I wanted a little less than 2 years ago. I got a big raise (10%) and a 3 grand bonus at the end of '84. Maybe that's why they had to let go some people; I don't understand companies, but they like my work.

Yes, I can now write a program in COBOL to say “hello world” or another of a thousand different catch phrases. Why, I can even trap errors with declaratives (oops ... DECLARATIVES). Aren't you PROUD of me? You asked why did I do my object conversion program in COBOL? Answer:

  1. To show the ultimate power of COBOL - it can do anything!
  2. The object files were COBOL programs - they Understand each other.
  3. Portability, my man, portability. That object conversion program (RMCOBJ) will now run on any system running RM/COBOL .
  4. What a blast!!
    Don't you just love it when I talk COBOL?
Since I've been working with UNIX, or perhaps I should say since I'm stuck with the clumsy awkwardness of adb as my debugging tool, I've gone back to looking at source code to find bugs. Gosh, I'm losing my nerditity. Before you know it, I might become socially adept, start wearing fashionable clothes and cease buying twinkies and code for lunch. (Actually, I have switched from “Avacado on dark rye w/everything” to “Avacado on light rye w/everything” for lunch at Piggies.)

Well, enough about work; let's move on to New Year's Resolution. It's been so cold and getting dark so early that I've only ridden to work once or twice this month. So, I'm running again; albeit only twice this month, but that's a start. My main resolution has been to cook my dinners at home more often (minimum of 5 times a week) and to get out of the house and visit with other people more often. I've been doing that - sort of. Haven't met anyone new.....................

Any philosophical Insights lately, Jon? I've at times pondered the possibility th - liklihood that the last thing an inquisitive fish would discover would be water - simply because it's everywhere - around it - always - completely immersed in it. And I've wondered “where's the 'water' in our world?” What is it that's everywhere - all the time - in which we are immersed but unaware of? I had an insight into that question the other day; you know what it is? For want of a better term, it's happiness. How many people don't know happiness? And how many people are looking for it without knowing where to look or quite what they are looking for? I submit that happiness is at our fingertips now and at anytime; it is ongoing and omnipresent. Let me explain. Unlike a fish, who would most likely need to leave the water to discover it, we are like fish out of water - searching. We need merely to fall back into the sea and cease our searching to know happiness. Think about it and see if you agree with any of the following suppositions:

  1. The state of happiness is not a reflective state, it is a state of conscious occupation of unselfconscious - of complete attention.
  2. A state of happiness can be recalled, but cannot be experienced and recognized at the same time.
  3. Happiness is the natural by-product of an intent, curious, observing mind, not a reflective, searching one.
When we lose awareness of ourselves as isolated individuals - completely lost to our own existence - in a state of passive attention to the world currently around us - whether the voice and presence of another being or the sights and sounds of a scene, a kind of elusive bond begins to unite the observer and the observed - the way 2 fish may be joined by the water between them. The observer becomes participant. The sensation or subliminal perception of this bond that forms is what we experience as happiness. But the bond is a passive one, it snaps immediately upon reflection, self consciousness - a break in our attention. But at that break, we can recognize that we were happy. Does this make any sense to you?

Think of times when you can recall being happy. What times come to mind? Play times, No? When we are at play. Children are at play so often; children are happy. Adults rarely play; adults are not happy. Why are we happy when we play? Recall what state we are in when we play. Play is often between 2 similar living creatures, but doesn't have to be - one can play alone, but it is not as common - why? Aloneness brings upon reflection - self consciousness. When we're playing we are absorbed - our attention is completely captured. Kids chasing each other - playing tag - smiles on faces, giggles, screams - laughs - spontaneous 'uncontrolled'. There is no division between you and the world - no sense of time - the bond is there! These are characteristics of the experiences we call happiness - are they not? It doesn't have to be play. These ingredients are also present in stimulating excitable conversation, in an intent involvement with a musical instrument, a paint brush, or just plain existence as might possibly be mastered by a yogi or a wise man.

I am also led to wonder: if happiness is the experience, what is the true nature of the bond of which I speak - the connection. What about the mystical experience?

There is something very true in this gibberish I'm spilling out here, Jon. But how strange! Look at the ways people are trying to become happy - buying cars, clothes, houses, joining clubs, getting married, driving, searching, driving, ..., twisting & writhing like fish out of water.

What do you think? I'm nuts?

Well, time for bed.


[[ My response to this letter. ]]

PrevNextTop85-01-31* Letter From Jim, Happiness