Our Own Green Mile: A Life Long Quest for Happiness

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How do I find it? Where can I buy it?

I use to ask myself this question all the time. The problem is I wasn’t asking the right questions. Unfortunately, most of the modern day world focuses on theses things. Happiness to most people means the things we can touch i.e. nice car, big home, lots of money, etc…. True, money can bring you a temporary feeling of euphoria but I think that’s the adrenaline talking. Happiness is mostly intangible not tangile. You cannot hold it or measure it on a scale. I look to the world to inspire me on a daily basis. Happiness cannot be compared between people either. The old addage “Keeping up with the Joneses” doesn’t really apply. You can have everything the same as another person and still be miserable.  I found that making more money and less money didn’t matter, I still felt the same. I didn’t need to change my tangible attributes. I needed to change my intangible attributes to truly be happy no matter what the circumstance.

Soul Searching and Brain Storming

I decided to look at what life really meant to me. Who or what inspires me to wake up everyday? and Why? I found that it wasn’t making money or buying something just to buy something, it’s knowing that I had peace of mind and a sense of hope for the world. What gives me hope and peace? It’s everything in my surroundings. We all have to be observers and witnesses to the world. Some will find despair and some will find hope even in the darkest and most challenging times. It is in those moments, true character is built. Adversity is the key to happiness. It’s not just our own trials and tribulations, but includes world events and everyday situtations. They all influence the way we feel about ourselves, others, and the world around us. You must make piece with yourself first though. If you can accept yourself for what you are and find happiness within yourself, then you can start to understand what happiness is. It is not the same for everyone and some people will never reach it. When you completely open yourself to the world, the world will show you amazing things that you could of never understood before. I have found myself very different from my younger self. I can now analyze situtations and people without being jealous, mad or just plain judgemental. Through adversity, we can learn from our mistakes and build stronger character.

Life Lessons in Inspiration

To help you begin to understand the road to happiness, I am including two movies that keep inspiring me. The first, The Green Mile written by Stephen King, is an excellent book and movie. Both constantly examine the idea of belief and death. It takes what we believe and turns it on its head. Once of my favorites quotes comes from a death row inmate Arlen Bitterbuck on his day of execution in the movie:

“Do you believe that if a man repents enough for what he done wrong, than he’ll get to go back to the time that was happiest for him and live there forever? Could that be what heaven’s like?”

The movie constantly makes you re-evaluate what you believe. When I hear him say this, it makes me think that everyone clings to hope that hope provides us with the opportunities to be happy. When we lose hope and fall into despair that leads to fear which causes happiness to elude us.

The idea of losing hope and waiting for death can be seeen when Paul Edgecomb is taking about his life:

“That’s as good a word as any. He infected us both, didn’t he, Mr. Jingles? With life. I’m a hundred and eight years old, Elaine. I was forty-four the year that John Coffey walked the Green Mile. You mustn’t blame John. He couldn’t help what happened to him… he was just a force of nature. Oh I’ve lived to see some amazing things Elly. Another century come to past, but I’ve… I’ve had to see my friends and loved ones die off through the years… And you Elaine… you’ll die too, and my curse is knowing that I’ll be there to see it. It’s my attonement you see; it’s my punishment, for letting John Coffey ride the lightning; for killing a miracle of God. You’ll be gone like all the others. I’ll have to stay. Oh, I’ll die eventually, that I’m sure. I have no illusions of immortality, but I will wished for death… long before death finds me. In truth, I wish for it already. We each owe a death – there are no exceptions – but, oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long.”

Walking the green mile means to move toward the inevitable in John’s case he walks his last mile to his execution and Paul is still walking the green mile waiting for the inevitable: death. Instead of focusing on the unimportant in life, as a people, we all need to focus on what is truly important in the world. Right now, we are all walking our own green mile toward what we know is certain in this life, but what comes after no one can be sure. Both experience, John and Paul as an old man, what it is to live in loneliness and despair without hope or happiness that is why they both wished for death. Life is meant to be lived but in the absence of hope, happiness cannot exist.  Another good example is when John and Paul are arranging John’s execution. Paul has found out that John is innocent and John says:

“You tell God the Father it was a kindness you done. I know you hurtin’ and worryin’, I can feel it on you, but you oughta quit on it now. Because I want it over and done. I do. I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’s coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time.”

Again, John expresses like Paul that without hope and the absence of happiness makes death a better option. John cannot even obtain the most superficial happiness much like Paul experiences when he is older which is someone to share their life with or talk to. This void causes despair in both characters.

In the Shawshank Redemption another great Stephen King adaptation you see the juxtaposition of Red and Andy. Red represent the idea of fear and an absence of happiness where Andy represent the idea of hope and happiness. The title of the book is Hope Springs Eternal and is very evident by the end of the book. That  not matter what happens life will continue without you whether good or bad. It’s in that moment of decsion we can choose to be happy. Red begins to see what Andy continually tries to show him throughout the story that with hope comes happiness as Red says:

 “I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

Red finally comes to this conclusion after Andy escapes:

“Sometimes it makes me sad, though… Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.”

Andy constantly reminds Red that:

“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Red finally gets what Andy was says:

“Get busy living or get busy dying, that’s damn right.”

Even the darkest moments Andy sees the situation differently than Red does, but eventually Red begins to think like Andy that happiness can be found anywhere and with hope anything is possible. Hope drives our biggest achievements. If we lose that hope then we lose our drive to better ourselves and our world. It also affects our state of happiness as well. Red begins to realize this through Andy like a child would learn from their parents or anyone would learn from their surroundings. Andy remains hopeful he will get out and he does, while Red dwells in this state of despair that life is what is. Not until his friend Andy leaves, does Red begin to question this idea. When Read question why that is when he begins to realize that hope is a good thing that hope can bring you so much more.

What does it all mean?

We all have our own green mile to walk. The road can be long and filled with moments of despair, but hope and happiness is always present whether we see it or not. The challenge is recognizing it, grabbing hold of it and embracing the moment. Like Paul in the end, we must accept what we cannot change but hope for a better tomorrow. Like Andy says, hope is a good and a good thing never dies. It’s the little things and memories we have that contribute the most to our happiness. It is important to give those as much clout as the big momnets in our lives because they happen more frequent than you think. Hope is so much bigger and stronger than fear some people realize this quicker than others. Happiness is easier to obtain than you think you just have to ask the right questions.

9 thoughts on “Our Own Green Mile: A Life Long Quest for Happiness

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