The Smile Revolution

I am affect by a rare and incurable disease: optimism.
I am, furthermore, inclined to pursue filthy vices such as trusting, giving, forgetting, forgiving, supporting, believing, sharing, loving, caring, laughing, living.
However, the sin my soul is most dirty with, generated by my hopeless romantic idealism, is my enjoyment of Life.
Don’t get me wrong: I have been duly lectured in regards to the Absolute Shittiness of human existence. I have made notes, analyzed them, studied every possible contrary opinion or theory in order to dismantle it. I have been revising, researching in history to make sure any glimpse of human hope has been defused. To make sure that by no possible coincidence, or mistake, mankind might experience this dangerous tendency which is the-desire-to-live-and-pursue-happiness. Even typing it up evokes horrifying images of contentment. Contentment. Archaic.

Yes, I have been schooled for years. It has been at first difficult and, how could I say, against nature, for me to understand certain mechanisms, but I have had the luck to receive the best training available nowadays, a 3 -year full immersion into misery and desperation. I worked hard to avoid feeling lucky and blissful everytime I open my eyes in the morning. And never to privilege the positive event over the negative one. I memorized the rule according to which the existence of positivity is once and for all proved to be an heresy, a paradox, a ludicrous attack on logic and reason. The opium of people. Yes, we won’t deny occasionally luck turns her eyes in our direction, but come on. There is so much shit we can appreciate instead!
I have tried again and again to kick all of my bad, erm, sorry, good habits;  I have turned the corners of my mouth down each time I felt a smile crept its way up to my eyes; I have carefully observed and attempted to imitate the attitudes and postures of cynics; I have tried to firmly say no before even trying. I have miserably failed.

I have been wondering whether I was going in the wrong direction. I told myself ‘if 80 % of those you know feel miserable, and spend time trying to explain to you why you should feel miserable as well, they must be right. They must have understood some fundamental truth that escaped you. They must have experienced the whole range of human feelings, emotions and situations, and finally decided it is much better to stick to negativity than re-dimension things.’ Fuck. I am so absolutely narrow minded, I thought.

And yet, between one complain and the other, I have timidly raised my hand and whispered ‘but I have experienced something bad as well, but still…’. I couldn’t finish my sentence. ‘No, it can’t be half as bad as mine. And in any case you are lucky. You have character…’ and so on, in a triumph of ego and a desperate need for attention which often tramps on the basic rules of co-existence: respect, sensitivity, understanding.

For months I was tormented with questions as to why I should feel contented. Why I should accept all I have gone through and turn it into my strength. Why I should see the battles I have lost as victories and my losses as gains. Why, in simple terms, I should love Life and all its hues and shades. Why I should feel the sunrise in my arteries when I walk on the street and I observe the world. I believe contentment is happiness, and I have not stopped chasing happiness one second in my life.

The answer came a few nights ago, when again I could not fall asleep. This was it: the reason for smiling at life in the midst of fortunes and misfortunes is respect towards those who are educated to violence and pain. I am a lucky human being who survived a few things. I have had the possibility to be educated and built a path for myself which leads to the gates of total contentment. It is my right and duty to appreciate what I have, value and treasure it, because millions in the world never will. And don’t get me wrong – I know it isn’t easy.

The truth is that, in this cynical and disillusioned society, in which everyone runs after success and power, control and affirmation, where a tiny little space is left to the understanding of our real needs as human beings and in which, above all, the struggle for freedom has now acquired an hysterical dimension, the truth is, I say, that the real, one and only, revolutionary act is to smile. The real challenge in our lifetime is to keep hope alive, to believe and appreciate the good things we have. And, above all, to abandon solitudes and egotisms in order to be united with the others in the search for serenity and peace. It is not easy but it is already a great start to avoid throwing personal trouble over people who already carry their own burdens, and expect to endlessly receive without ever giving.

It is a hard time in history for all of us, but I don’t see how we will ever get out of it without each other.

I have been raised and educated to live counter-current. I am angry and I consider rage a precious gift, but rage is nothing without hope and desire to re-build. The ability to smile, instead, is the most powerful weapon we have in order to survive this system and ourselves. And begin a real revolution, starting from our own heart.

Don’t ever despair. Things will be better tomorrow.

J


Detail from Van Gogh’s Sunflowers series
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