how to avoid being eaten by a crocodile
In Happiness As a Spiritual Practice I mentioned that my spiritual path chose me when I was 17 years old. It came as a voice in my head that said, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you happy?” I still remember where I was standing and the feeling of certainty that happiness was valuable. And the world needed more of it. I knew from experience I couldn’t make the people I cared about happy, so I had to start with myself. It was a weird point of view, so I didn’t talk about it much.
In college when friends talked about what they wanted to do in life, all I could offer for myself was a lame, “I want to increase the net supply of happiness in the world.” I didn’t have the words to talk about it until my mid-twenties, when I read a book entitled The Importance of Being Imperfect by John Clarke. I don’t remember much about the book except that he connected imperfection with creativity and growth, and he told me a story about an apocryphal tribe that lived on the banks of a great river. The people of the tribe believed that when they died they would be called before their god Isis and be asked two questions: “Have you found joy in life? Have you brought joy to others?” If they could answer yes to both questions, they would be rewarded with eternal bliss. If they had to answer no to either question, they would be eaten by a crocodile.
The story tickled me, so for years my mission in life was to avoid being eaten by a crocodile. I feel more comfortable about talking about spirituality now, and this blog is a chance to do that. Still, I do like that crocodile image. Which do you prefer? Happiness as a spiritual practice, or how to avoid being eaten by a crocodile?