Wednesday, June 11, 2008


A story arc of Scott Adams's Dilbert comic strip had Dilbert captured by aliens, taken to their home world, and put in a zoo. Finally Dilbert is released and returns to his cramped cubicle, thankful that he is no longer confined. The irony, in case you missed it, is that the cubicle that Dilbert returns to is materially inferior to the zoo he was in.

My reading of the strip is that we can be in spiritual prison or we can enjoy spiritual freedom, depending on our world view. No, this does not mean that I would just as soon be locked up in San Quentin as be on the outside. But I have seen plenty of people in a spiritual prison of which I had no understanding.

I recall a married couple that I knew in college. She was a sweet country girl that was pleased to leave school and marry a bright/brilliant, considerate, loving (from all appearances) guy. She had a job overseeing a warehouse. She felt trapped because she had preferred marriage to high school. She thought she would have had such a great career if she had not got married when she did!

My view was that she hated school before and was pleased to get away from it, so she probably still hated school. She was nice, but not naturally bright. She was earning a good living at a good, albeit limited, job. She had a husband who treated her exceedingly well. I saw her situation as one in which she could easily consider herself fortunate.

My mom had a similar story, except that mom was bright/brilliant; she had the 4.0 average and the academic achievement medals to prove it. But she got married at 17 to the man she loved (No, she didn't have to get married! I came along 7 years later.)

Mom occasionally wondered what she could have achieved if she had not got married, but she did not dwell on it as my friend in college did. Both women were confined by previous choices and my honest appraisal is that mom had much better prospects for career achievement than my friend in school. But mom was happy living in the box she made for herself, while my friend was not.

Our past actions build a little box in which we live. If we are not happy in our box we can, often with great effort and some risk, build a new box. But so many people in spacious, opulent boxes are miserable while those in more humble boxes are happy.

One of my favorite song lyrics, as I previously posted, is by Tom Tom Club. "Happiness is emotional habit." I believe that we make the choice to be happy or to be miserable. I understand that my belief is an axiom--an assumption that I cannot prove.

When I see someone who is unhappy living in their excellent little box, I am dismayed. Well, I am not crushingly dismayed. After all, that would mean that I am not happy in my box.

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