Friday, 14 September 2012

The happiness of having a cross to bear [Fericirea de a avea o cruce de purtat]

What is the meaning of life? Why are we born and where are we heading to after death? Do we just vanish as if we never existed? Do we get other lives to spoil or to redeem the mistakes we made in our current life?

In the secular Western world the great majority of people are busy struggling for the ‘here and now’, thus remain untroubled by existential questions. There are so many things to do, so many mesmerizing illusions to run after… Who cares about what comes when this life ends?

The very few who still wonder what’s after death, end up decreeing that it’s all a matter of choice. Anyone can choose what to believe. There can’t be One Truth, they say, unable to understand that an infinity of possible truths is impossible.

Nevertheless, curious or not about what comes after the foreseeable end of life, all people want to be happy, whether they know it since early childhood or realize it later. But how do we understand what happiness is?

Is it the one that drinking a bottle of Coca-Cola promises? Is it the one that makes you lick your fingers at KFC? Is it kept safely in bank accounts, to be consumed in a shopping spree? Is it found in the relentless pursuit of pleasures?

Does a smartphone bring happiness, does a big pay check maintain it, does a holiday to an exotic Asian country boost it? Does making easy money guarantee it? Does taking all these away mean supressing happiness?

Questions like these could go on and on… Is happiness nothing but a chemical reaction, a cocktail of circumstances and feelings?

Is it a sum of achievements? If so, what is achievement? Is it a state of mind? If so, what is mind? Is it the meaning of life? If so, what is life?

The problem with defining happiness is that it is often found in people who have less of the prerequisite conditions of happiness, as defined by the hedonist world we live in. On the contrary, those who apparently have it all in life rarely have… happiness.

The rich, the beautiful, the super talented, and the perfectly healthy don’t have a highest class ticket to happiness in their pockets. It’s not uncommon to see the poor, the ugly, the ordinary, and the disabled having found the happiness that others are yearning for.

This can’t make sense for the rational Western world, can it? But it does from an Orthodox faith’s perspective. For those who understand the Truth, life is not a journey in itself, with meaning and purpose to be found in the scant ‘here and now’.

Seen exclusively from within the constraints of matter, life’s pleasures and life’s griefs are hyperbolized. The modern man seeks more of the first, while desperately trying to run from the (often unavoidable) latter.

However, seen in connection with their unseen Maker, with the ever-after, our lives have different meanings. Happiness unveils itself as unspoilt by petty pleasures, nor diminished even by the deepest sorrows.

Happy are those who have a cross (meaning: suffering, incapacity, humiliation, loss etc) to bear, assured that the reward for everying borne with dignity comes in the afterlife, not those who think that covetously improving the comfort of this life is the key to happiness.

Maybe this is why there are so many crosses*** in Romania, a country so full of unhappy people, since most of us put our hopes in the shallow values of the Western world. Maybe all these crosses are to remind each of us about our personal crosses.

We can try to fit into a better functioning society, where everyone’s goal is to get rid of any burdensome aspect of life, and live plainly, enjoyably. Many emigrate and fit in, many others don’t. In rare happy cases, some find a cross to hold on to in their adoptive country.

People fool themselves that they can be happy among others who don’t know where they are coming from, nor where they are going to. Others imagine that happiness has nothing to do with any metaphysical definition. 

Understanding why we are here and where we are going to can be the toughest thing for a man to face in life. Coming to terms with one’s cross is a long, painstaking process. It could last a lifetime. A life deprived of the comforts and delights much treasured today.

Some think that they are perfectly happy without ever asking themselves about the meaning of life. Or they simply adhere to catchy definitions regurgitated by vain trend-setters of which all ages of history are full.

But would these phony perceptions of happiness last beyond the grave?! Could anyone find a generally applicable definition of happiness without having discovered their personal cross in life?

*** NOTE: The 10 pictures of crosses were taken in various places throughout Romania in 2011 and 2012. For a detailed photo see the first comment below.

[For all the posts on this blog go to/Pentru toate postările de pe acest blog mergi la: Contents/Cuprins]


MunteanUK said...

Photo Legend:

[1] 2012 – The stone cross on top the Mausoleum of Mărăşeşti (jud. VN), commemorating the Battle of Mărăşeşti (August 6 – September 8, 1917), and inaugurated in 1938.

[2] 2012 – A well in a churchyard (?!), in an unknown village on the National road 2F from Bacău (jud. BC) to Vaslui (jud. VS).

[3] 2011 – Very tall white concrete cross installed (it’s not clear by whom?!) in the roundabout near the “Traian Vuia” International Airport in Timişoara (jud. TM).

[4] 2012 – The well known red cross symbol on a Romanian Red Cross tent in Herăstrau Park, Bucharest.

[5] 2012 – An old stone cross on the National road 72A (Târgovişte-Câmpulung Muscel), in village named Gheboieni (jud. DB).

[6] 2011 – “The Dormition of the Theotokos” church in the city of Deva (jud. HD).

[7] 2011 – Wooden cross in front of the Timiş County Hospital in Timişoara (jud. TM).

[8] 2012 – “The Cross of Wishes,” Cetăţuia Negru Vodă monastery. Situated some 15 km SE of Câmpulung Muscel (jud. AG), the monastery is known as the ‘Romanian Meteora’.

[9] 2012 – An imposing steel cross on a hill overlooking Putna monastery (jud. SV).

[10] 2012 – The beautiful “The Dormition of the Theotokos” church, a parish church for no more than one hundred people (+ the occasional tourists) in Băile Tuşnad (jud. HR).

Sofia said...

fiecare are crucea lui! dintotdeauna a fost asa, doar ca, difera modul de a o suporta ..
mai demult era ceva firesc, acum nimeni nu o mai suporta, nu mai are rabdare sa-si duca crucea! pare f greu,uneori chiar imposibil, pentru ca in jurul nostru se afla oameni "fericiti" care nu par a avea vreo cruce, la ei totul functioneaza perfect atunci incepi sa te compari si sa urasti crucea ta ...
cat despre fericire, e f greu de obtinut! poate pentru ca necesita un mare grad de simplitate, pe care noi in complexitaeta tehnologiilor nu o mai putem cunoaste..

MunteanUK said...

@ Sofia

Indeed, human beings have always had crosses to bear, but for the past hundreds of years - and especially during the last decades - they have begun to consider them 'unbearable'.

The reasonable and legitimate 'pursuit of happiness', stipulated in the United States Declaration of Independence...,_liberty_and_the_pursuit_of_happiness

...has gradually turned into a demonic 'I-do-what-I-want'.

In the mad quest for having their wishes fulfilled, people are running away from any 'cross' of responsability, morality, decency, politeness, empathy...


Since people are not focused on their own crosses (own salvation) anymore, while there's a continuous avalanche of 'news' about how others are doing, it's easier than ever to judge fellow human beings.

However - irrespective of today's circumstances - it is an absolute folly to judge others who seem to be happy.

No 'prosperity' on earth can last forever (at most, it can last till such a 'happy' man dies), and, in spite of appearances of happiness, the truth is that these 'apparently happy' (envied by others) are some of the most miserable people...