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THE ART OF HAPPINESS

At a friend's recommendation, I picked up a copy of Zen and the Art of Happiness. This little tome, first published in 2006 and written by Chris Prentiss, who is the founder/director of the Passages Addiction Cure Center in Malibu (and he's probably a multi-millionaire, judging by the hefty fee this center charges its largely celebrity clientele) - this little tome is really delightful. 

But first, a little backstory. Over dinner I asked said friend, whose name is Samantha and who is no longer my friend, since subsequent to the dinner she acted very unfriendly to me - but over dinner I told Samantha how wise I thought she was, and at the relatively tender age of twenty-six (relative to me, who just last week turned 44, thank you very much). She is also a millionairess, and wisdom doesn't always attend worldly success, but in her case I felt it did. In reply she referenced this Prentiss book. And how we are all part of a greater whole, which has our best interest ever at heart. You would never cut off your hand, would you? Well the Universe, God, is the greater whole that would never cut off the lowly appendage that is the individual, the you and me, and she. 

So I went home high from our date and tipsy from mezcal (which is like tequila, only smokier and pricier) and ordered the book. Later that same week this seemingly wise friend proved not to be as considerate as she was wise and worldly. We had made plans for after the Super Bowl and she told me she'd call me the day before the game to confirm. She didn't, so a few hours before kick-off I called her and left a message. I never heard back. After the game I texted her to say "I guess no dinner?" and she replied that she had left a message and a text for me but hadn't heard back so she went ahead and made other plans. 

Now, I had no record of a message or text on my phone. I said so much, and told her that if she didn't want to hang out, all she had to do was say so much. I'm a big boy and can take it, I say. Even though this is LA, and people are flaky. She sends me a record of the text I never got to prove her point. But my dinosaur of a phone can't receive files, so it fell on deaf ears as they say. I asked why she hadn't returned my phone message from earlier in the day. For this there was really no convincing response, other than that she didn't want to. At least she didn't say that she never received my message. What she did say was that she'd call me on the morrow. As you can probably guess, I never heard back. It seems Samantha does act her age after all. More like a teenager, giving me the run-around. Prevaricating. Dissimulating. Fabricating. I use these words because they are of the type you study as a teenager to pass entrance exams to enter college, which she never attended. But that's neither here nor there. It's not like I learned any manners at my time in UCLA. I've just always been respectful! Not everyone is like me. But Prentiss seems to be.

The gist of his little book is this: All the laws of the Universe, which is 18 billion years old, are in favor of the continuation of the Universe. For the Universe to continue to exist, it can only permit the best possible events (perfect events) to occur at any moment in time, lest the Universe be in danger of its own destruction. And so it goes from perfect event to perfect event. And since the Universe is synonymous with all that exists, and you are a part of the Universe, then everything that happens to you, to me, to each of us, is for our complete benefit. So be happy, relax into the moment, enjoy life, worry not, and be stress free.

Now that's really a very lovely premise, and one that I can thoroughly get behind and wholeheartedly endorse. Why? Because I have already found in my own life that this is precisely the case. Everything happens for a reason. More than that. Everything is for your highest good - even if it doesn't seem that way at first. I mean accidents and deaths and catastrophes, too. They all are necessary events in the story of your life, and not until it is over do you have the perspective to see that every single moment tends to your ultimate good. So you should just accept so much on good faith, and live every day at ease.

Now the skeptic could argue Prentiss' premise. You could say that the Universe had a beginning, and will also have an end. Because that which is born will also die. And when the time comes for the Universe to die, or Earth to explode, or the humanity to self-destruct, imperfect events will arise, imperfect because they won't tend to the continuance of the Universe. But even destruction is perfect, if the Universe, Earth's, humanity's, time is up. But Prentiss uses the term Universe for all that is. I mean God. And since you can't get something from nothing, we always start with something, and something will always survive. Nothing is created or destroyed, but only changes state. The one constant in life being change, as is stated in Prentiss' favorite book, the I Ching (pronounced yee jing, I came to find), which some authorities place such a high measure of faith in that they view the book itself as being the same as an intelligent being! And this something that will always exist, this something is you. And it is perfect. So naysayers be damned. 

Voltaire was one such naysayer, who in his book Candide ridiculed the notion propounded by the German philosopher Wilhelm Liebniz that we live in the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire put his main character, this sweet simpleton, through all manner of misfortunes, and had him cling to this tenuous notion that all is for the good, though the beatings and betrayals he endured seemed to prove otherwise. But you know what, when Voltaire's story was over, Candide emerged unharmed, and safe and sound in his garden paradise with his friends and loved ones around him. So despite himself, Voltaire proved the very thing he was trying to disprove, which is that EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS IS FOR YOUR BENEFIT.

And everything that doesn't happen, too. So I forgive my friend. The dinner date in which she introduced me to Prentiss' book was the last of its kind, I knew that even before she never called me back. Because after two heady/overpriced drinks and enough sodium to float a steamboat, I was left with the $250 bill and a fat face. Two-fifty is over twice what I pay for a week's worth of groceries. Insufferable! It would have been par for the course had we become a couple. Really I prefer to dine alone and at home, if by doing so I can economize and avoid the bags that persisted under my eyes for an entire week. 

You see, everything is indeed for the best. Which is what I wish for Samantha, and for you. Thanks for reading, and for recommending I read, and for having been read.

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