an argument for some self-focus

About 500 of the undead convene to learn the steps to Michael Jackson's Thriller video, July 2, 2009, at Discovery Green, Houston.  Photographed with Nikon D300, 70-200mm lens.

Yesterday morning I received an email from my friend Mark, with a link to this site and a note saying that he thought I would enjoy it.  The site is all about the study and development of human happiness.  While it looks really interesting, I haven't had time yet to go through it in any detail; however, I was struck by the title of one of their articles, called, "Put your own oxygen mask on first."  

Immediately, of course, I thought about those safety demonstrations that they have in airplanes:  you know how they always say if you're in an emergency, and you're sitting next to someone who needs help with their oxygen mask, you're supposed to put on your mask first, and then "render assistance"?  Yeah.  I gotta tell you, if I'm on a plane with my daughter, and that sucker is going down, I strongly suspect the first thing I'm going to do is try to save her by at least getting that mask on her face.  That's just basic instinct, right?  Save the kid.  Worry about yourself later.

Of course, if you keep thinking about it, this instinct could not be more wrong:  how much help am I going to be to Alex if I've passed out from lack of oxygen?  The fact is, on a decompressing plane that's bleeding oxygen, in order to help Alex, I'd have to help myself first.  Really, it would be our only chance.

So, there's a paradox for you:  in order to be good to the people you love, you need to take care of yourself first.  I've gone back and read the article and it turns out, of course, that is its point.  And you know what?  More and more in my life, I'm starting to believe this is true -- not just on unexpected flights, but every time.  This concept began to become apparent to me when I was still employed by corporate America, making good money, but working so hard that I was never available to my family, I was angry all the time, and I even experienced a few weird panic attacks.  Getting to happy was imperative, not just for me, but for my family.  I needed to take care of myself, even before I could start to think about what it took to take care of my family.  I was no good to them unhappy or unhealthy.

But wait, there's more!

As I spent yesterday thinking about all of this, I remembered that I once read that happiness is addictive -- that if we're happy, people around us become happier, as well.  So it necessarily follows that not only should I take care of myself in order to take care of my family and the people I love, but by doing so, it'll have the added benefit of taking care of the people in my community, as well.  And we know this to be true:  we've all be in situations where we're in a crowd and can feel the palpable energy in the room -- say, waiting for a delayed flight together, or praying in a church or meditating together, or hell, learning the dance moves to an iconic music video in the hot Texas sun together.  If the majority of us are stressed, we all feel it.  If most of us are happy, we're happy, we feel it. If we're at peace, we feel it.  Energy gets passed on, from friend to friend, from person to stranger.  It's this very cool, very cosmic, knock-on effect.

We're all interconnected.

So, therefore, it appears we each have a mission, should we choose to accept it: at some point today, let's all take some time to take care of ourselves.  Do something that is good for you.  I'll let you decide what that is.  But just do it.  Do it for yourself.  Do it for the people you love. 

Heck, do it for all of us.


Song:  In lieu of my usual song of the day, I thought I'd share this wonderful video that I found on my friend Giyen's site.  If this doesn't convince you that we're all interconnected in mystical and inexplicable ways, well, then, I just don't know what.

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.