Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

Happy for no good reason at all

Finally, I’m blogging on something I’m an acknowledged expert. Everyone knows me as someone who’s always happy. It’s not true, but that’s how I’m known. Actually, once every 18 months or so, I really feel down. I never push that aside. If I’m sad, there must be a reason, something worthwhile investigating—and likely mourning about. It always just lasts from half an hour to a couple of days, but those moments I cherish as precious.

This runs in my family. My mother, even after the Holocaust, was a happy camper (pun not intended). But before the Great Disaster, she was even happier. I saw a picture of nurses getting their diploma in the ’30s and so everyone should have been happy. But the one really beaming is my mom.

My brother was a very giving person, always willing to lend his ear to those in pain. But if, after a decade of listening to how much it’s hurting, life was still worth complaining about, he would start not liking it. Why always focus on the negative? Is that all that life can ever be about? He even created a word for people who always and forever complain: droeftoeters, which means: [people who always] trumpet [their] sorrow. It’s not us.

My father was the most serious of the bunch. He grew up poor, survived the Holocaust, and became a pulmonologist. In the beginning, it was fun. So many tuberculosis patents and newly discovered antibiotics that cured. But then, TB disappeared from the radar. What was left were people with asthma and many with lung cancer. Often, every week a patient of his would die. And he was often in mourning for a week. So, he whistled Bach while walking the corridors of the hospital. “Your father is so happy.” No, he was just trying to lift his spirit. He had many others who needed him.

Dutch culture is not a happy worldview. No doubt, classical Calvinism played a role. “Humans are evil and not inclined to any good.” Every day rain may also have contributed. The stellar Dutch psychiatrist P.C. Kuiper said: “Depression is the common cold of the brain: everybody has it.”

Causes?

My wise, senior rabbi teaches that there can be two reasons for being happy. You feel good about something, or you don’t feel good, but you realize it’s for the best, it’s something you need to go through. I disagree.

I think that people are naturally happy. For no good reason at all. Built-in.

After you find yourself happy or decide to tap into your natural happiness, you may see many supporting ‘reasons.’ But really, they are fake excuses.

Just like most of the time, we don’t know why we are unhappy and blame something recent. But the roots are often long. That’s fake unhappiness.

Just like typically, we don’t know what made us angry and blame the outside. But in fact, we decide to be angry, to cover over other emotions.

For me, caused happiness is fake too.

We can (and should) be grateful for the good that befalls us. But happiness is not a result. Happiness is inborn. Look at toddlers waking up, all smiles and energetic. They don’t have ‘reasons.’ They’re happy by default.

Just like ‘healthy foods’ don’t exist. Health is a quality of us. We can eat or do things that support or endanger our health, but it comes from within.

The US

I’m not advocating US middle-class fake smiling. You’re close to suicide, but you must show everyone your dental work results around the clock.

The US has even enshrined in its Constitution a right to pursue happiness. That’s the best way never to be happy. It’s like perusing the horizon. You’ll never get there. Assuming something outside of you will make you happy.

I’ve noticed that in the US, ads often try to sell feelings. This vacuum cleaner will make you happy. The Dutch would never buy a hoover for that reason. It should vacuum well—that’s all that’s needed, thank you.

The US is the world’s greatest consumer of anti-depressants. Whatever the Founding Fathers had in mind, pursuing happiness is clearly not working.

The Jewish Sages teach that those who have 50 want 100, who have 100 want 200, who have 200 want 400. Not only is it never enough. The more you have, the greater the amount you feel you’re lacking. The relative well-to-do frequently wonder how the really poor can be so happy.

That’s because they never became spoiled brats who must be pleased and entertained before they would consider a faint real smile if ever. Entitlement doesn’t make happy. It makes us displeased and unsatisfied.

It’s also because they can’t afford to be down. Happiness can be your last fortune. You squander that, you’ll be forced to live in total poverty. The Amsterdam working class has a saying: When you laugh, you’re rich.

The Real Thing

The Hebrew Bible commands us to be happy. If the happy semi-Festival of Purim is rabbinically instituted, how can happiness on Purim be biblically required? The answer: happiness is a biblical obligation all year round.

Jews accepted the Torah without preconditions. “We will abide [by it], and we will listen.” Shouldn’t we listen to the Commandments first? No, we trusted G^d. Blanco cheque. Your Wish is our Command (pardon the pun).

That’s how to be happy—which is part of Jewish life. Pull up the corners of your mouth. Mean it. (No fake smiles!) No ifs. Then you’ll remember why.

Nothing will make us angry but us. Nothing will make us happy but us.

The Festival of Booth is the happy time par excellence. If not now, when?

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 1400 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/ or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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