The first question:
You once told us a beautiful story about an old man who was over one hundred years old. One day, on his birthday, he was asked why it was that he was always happy. He replied: “Every morning when I wake up I have the choice to be happy or unhappy, and I choose to be happy.” How is it that we usually choose to be unhappy? How is it that we don’t usually feel aware of the choice?
This is one of the most complex human problems. It has to be considered very deeply – and it is not theoretical, it concerns you. This is how everybody is behaving – always choosing the wrong, always choosing the sad, the depressed, the miserable. There must be profound reasons for it, and there are.
The first thing: the way human beings are brought up plays a very definite role in it. If you are unhappy you gain something out of it, you always gain. If you are happy you always lose. From the very beginning an alert child starts feeling the distinction. Whenever he is unhappy everybody is sympathetic toward him; he gains sympathy. Everybody tries to be loving toward him; he gains love. And even more than that, whenever he is unhappy everybody is attentive toward him – he gains attention.
Attention works like a food for the ego, a very alcoholic stimulant. It gives you energy, you feel you are somebody. Hence so much need, so much desire to get attention. If everybody is looking at you, you become important. If nobody is looking at you, you feel as if you are not there, you are no more, you are a non-being. People looking at you, people caring about you give you energy.
The ego exists in relationship. The more people pay attention to you the more you gain ego. If nobody looks at you the ego dissolves. If everybody has completely forgotten you, how can the ego exist? How can you feel that you are? Hence the need for societies, associations, clubs. All over the world clubs exist – Rotary, Lions, Masonic Lodges – millions of clubs and societies. These societies and clubs exist only to give attention to people who cannot get attention in other ways.
It is difficult to become a president of a country, it is difficult to become a mayor of a corporation. It is easier to become the president of a Lions Club, and a particular group gives you attention. You are very important – doing nothing. Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs – doing nothing at all but still they feel they are something important. And the president goes on changing – this year one, next year another. And everybody gets attention. It is a mutual arrangement, and everybody feels important.