We seem to seek feeling good like crazy – it is the addiction of our time. Our hysterical strive is to find a state of euphoric ecstasy... we crave a life in which one head in the clouds moment is followed by the next, as the only way to find meaning in life.
After all, life is we deserve a little feel-good. Incidentally, this is the narrative of each advertisement on TV in the living room and the bold print shown in all newsprint, all bombarding and steam-rolling us daily.
The multitudes of means to ends: Luxury goods, romantic breakaways, sports that pump adrenalin, what to eat, what to drink, all posing as a different drug to induce good feelings.
Feeling good is the measure. If your body and mind protest against the constant ‘highs’ and other emotions oppose this road to crazy happiness, we plan, we see therapists and swallow pills to return to feeling good.
But, is it enough?
Mostly the means are transitory, instant – nothing more than leaving us gaping for the next fix. Feeling good is an attempt to create permanent joy and happiness. Unfortunately, it is spectacularly unsuccessful, leaving us feeling empty, still searching, still craving ...
It seems life is more than simply feeling good. It is not only about sunshine, rainbows and princesses in tiaras. Life is complex, painful, often broken, a mystery in thousands of different shades. Feeling good is part of it, but life is so much more. Life also involves embracing sadness and heartbreak as an essential part of being alive.
Being happy is different from feeling good. Happiness is not living with your head in the clouds or the absence of suffering. Instead, it is the constant and definite knowing that God is present. Happiness transcends every moment, sunshine or bad weather, knowing that God is present in it. It colours every moment in a God-given way.
Of course, we may feel good. It is good to know what makes us feel good. It is also good to know that which anchors our existence here and now is the deep knowledge that God is present in every hue of our lives. It is good to know that even the incredible tragedy of a Man on the Cross may bring happiness ...
Men working at sea also know life in all its hues. Some days bring sunshine and rainbows, but others stormy weather and sadness. More recently they may have experienced more stormy weather than sunshine. It is described as the worst humanitarian crisis that the shipping industry ever had to survive. As such, each aspect of these men’s lives was under constant threat. Apart from the normal being away from home (that is traumatic by itself ), the world closed its doors to men working at sea. At one stage it was reported that up to 600 000 seamen’s contracts had expired and that they were stuck on ships. Some of the men could not leave the ships for up to sixteen months. This is a severe burden at a high price. There was an exponential increase in suicide. There is a feeling of helplessness upon hearing the news that a mother, father or wife became a Covid victim. Fear grew about the horrific increase in pirate attacks along the African West Coast. All these aspects stack up to create a perfect emotional storm.
Our immediate reaction is: Inhumane! But, the men working at sea, irrespective of the fearless and strong image, remain only people, human beings. They also dream about feel good moments. They build daydreams too. Just like us, they do not crave the fleeting feeling good ideal, but deeper happiness, the deep knowledge that God is present in every hue and emotion of life.
At the CSO, we want to remind them in each situation, irrespective of the hue, that God transcends all. We want to tell them that happiness is not found at the end of the rainbow, but in each moment in which God is present. We can only hope that they find happiness in that. We hope that they will find God in that.
If you look at a ship in the harbour through the window of a jail, it would probably look like this photo. Everything you look at would be obstructed by the bars. The coronavirus pandemic changes the view we have of the seafarers that we serve. I am sure when they look at us from the ship, the view looks the same.