“The dream from which we are now awakening is what we have called ‘the myth of the little king’.”
It goes something like this: ‘Each person who is willing to conform to society's rule that we should work our lives away, may some day achieve his own kingdom.’ That kingdom is described in the social lore of today, as a place where ‘we will have all of the material possessions we desire, we will have leisure to enjoy them, we will be generally loved, worshipped and adored, and we will be happy.’
And so, from the moment of our first awareness, we are socialized; first to believe that the next possession we acquire will be the one that will make us happy; second, to believe that, for most of us, the work we do to earn those possessions will probably be a joyless prison from which we will be liberated only during brief weekends, and yearly vacations; rehearsals for the big liberation when we have achieved our kingdom and can retire. And until that time, the things for which our heart longs must be put away; for they are frivolous.
And what of the people who succeed; sometimes beyond our wildest dreams? Are they happy? In spite of all evidence to the contrary, we still believe that movie stars, professional athletes, and corporate moguls have everything to make them happy. After all, they have wealth, power, leisure, fame, beauty; in short, they are the kings. But are they in fact, happy? How many of them radiate sincere joy and fulfillment? How many of them simply consume voraciously and pursue more, ever more...? How many of them self-destruct? How many of them look as if they might be trying frantically to avoid asking the question: “if this is not it, what is?”
And what of the rest of us? In the United States, compared to the rest of the world, we are, each of us, truly kings. Traveling alone through Southeast Asia last year, this fact was emphasized to me again and again. Not only did I possess the wealth that allowed me to stop working and travel for an extended length of time, but I noticed that when I introduced myself as an American, I was being viewed as a representative of a culture and lifestyle to which most people in the world do not even aspire. There would always be that moment, right after I revealed myself, when conversation stopped and I could see that person, whether a cab driver, waiter, salesperson, innkeeper, or passerby on the street with whom I had started conversation, stop and revise their ideas - both good and bad - about who I might be. When I asked if they would like to visit the US, they would frequently laugh and tell me yes...they would like to, but they knew they would never be able.
America is the Emerald City. Perhaps everyone doesn’t love and approve of us, but most of them would love to come here, where they too could live as kings....and be happy... We live better than most people who have ever lived - not just people alive today - even imagined living. Many kings of times gone by never lived as well, as comfortably, as luxuriously, as we live. And are we happy? Look around. Listen. How many of the people around you are talking about how fortunate they are ? How many will tell you they feel the joy of a life fulfilled? And how many will tell you instead about the next accomplishment, the next job, the next lover, the next meal, the next diet, the next acquisition; the next thing they want? How many will tell you of their irritation in this moment with the weather, the traffic, the government, their mate, their family, their health, their... How many will tell you of their powerlessness?
And meanwhile, are we free or enslaved? Are our lives, spent every minute in either production or consumption, our own? Or are we subjugated to the idea of continuous economic growth? Have we looked at the impossibility of the idea that an ever increasing population of beings, all attempting to create our own little kingdoms can be sustained in a finite ecosystem?
How many of us can win in the endless competition to be certain our kingdom is bigger and better than everyone else's? And for those of us who win, what have we won? For now, we must never relax, never let down our guard. Because someone, somewhere else is going to come and try to take all of this away from us... Can we really be happy if we know that the remainder of our existence must be spent in some sort of defense against all of the other would-be kings, always making certain no one takes our kingdom away from us?
How can this be? If the one central thing we have been told all of our lives: “work hard, earn more money, get more stuff, and you will be happy”, is not true, then what is true? What actually does make us happy? What does bring us joy? What are we doing with our precious lives?
Many books are written about this idea, but it is no mystery. We have all felt that flash of joy. We feel it in the quiet moment when we watch the sun slip over the horizon in a blaze of color and glory. We feel it at the birth of a child when we hear its first ferocious cries of protest. We feel it in quiesence after lovemaking, or in a spontaneous moment of celebration while surrounded by the bustle and movement of those we love; when we see and share their happiness.
And what actions bring us joy? The acts of creation and giving; the act of an artist - and we are all artists in our own ways - at the moment of our highest art; this feeling is qualitatively different from grasping, taking, controlling or subjugation. This is the moment when we are joined, all of us, in our humanity.
Be your own artist...seek joy...do it now