One can live passively or actively. When one is passive you do not have an input in your experience, one expects happiness to be provided. In contrast with active living, you take control, it is up to you to chose how to feel and think. I believe our society is designed towards passive living.
The majority of entertainment in our society is an example of passive input, its purpose is not for you to think, rather its success relies on how well it provides you with enjoyment without a need for you to make an effort. If there is a dissonance or an element that detracts you from what you expect, forcing you to question what you have experienced then it fails. Star Wars The Force Awakens is an example of providing passive entertainment, it gave it’s fans everything they expected, by reusing the structure of Star Wars A New Hope, which already is following a well-established structure of the hero’s journey which was formalized by Joseph Campbell. Star Wars The Last Jedi, on the other hand, broke away from the expected structure, which seemingly pulled many of its fans out of the story, resulting in YouTube to became littered with videos exploring the failure of The Last Jedi. Even if entertainment is often designed to be experienced passively, it is ultimately up to the individual how they chose to experience it. One can design entertainment to function actively, I believe the film The Matrix is an example of that. In a way it is a hybrid, The Matrix was able to ask questions that stimulated it’s audience to be active, within a framework of passive entertainment. Most interestingly for me it asked a question that has been famously asked by Plato and Descartes, the cave analogy and the evil demon.
Passive and active ways of living are connected to happiness, but they are two fundamentally different methodologies for reaching it. Passively achieving happiness is like taking a drug, it is provided externally and the effect comes immediately, but does not last long. Examples of happiness achieved passively can be a compliment from someone you look up to, a Like on Facebook, good food, watching any form of entertainment such as sports or a film, shopping and so on. Whilst achieving happiness through active means is done internally by you alone, using your perspective to heighten one’s experience. The effect may take a long time to acquire, but when it is achieved it lasts longer than any happiness provided through passive means. The fundamental difference between the two forms is that when one knows how to achieve happiness actively then one can gain pleasure from both forms, with passive living one cannot.
Passive living has been commodified, we are constantly told that if we have this or that we will be happy, ironically when we get it, that happiness experienced is temporary, it slips through our fingers like sand. One needs nothing to experience happiness through active means, all one needs is to achieve a certain perspective. However I believe for us that are born in this society, achieving that perspective is immensely difficult, one needs to turn everything one knows on its head and reject our overwhelming desire for happiness that is provided passively. Personally I have seen active living, but I have not reached the point where I can truly hold on to it, nevertheless every day I struggle towards it, trying to avoid the snares of passive living and encourage everyone else to join me in that endeavor, because I believe in my heart that for humanity to survive into the distant future and for us to evolve towards beings in harmony with ourselves and the universe than that is the path we must take. The path of passive living, that I believe society has put us on, is rapidly leading us to our own extinction and or regression.
Passive living is not bad in itself. It is like a hunting rifle, it can help sustain you by putting food on the table or it can be misused in a way that damages. It must be said that only knowing passive living is like giving a loaded gun to a baby.
By achieving active living I believe one will never intentionally or accidentally be able to misuse passive living in a way that damages oneself, or is destructive towards the balance of our surroundings.
Active living needs to be learned, not that you need a teacher, but in the way that you must reflect, think and explore yourself and your emotions.
In conclusion, by living actively one can safely enjoy passive living and experience a heightened sense of it. Furthermore by living actively one is able to find pleasure in everything, as one is able to perceive beyond the immediate, the preconceived and the physical.
The key thing with living actively is that you cannot buy it, it cannot be given to you, nobody can tell you how to perceive it, you have to find it and perceive it for yourself. Though one can be told that it is there for you to find, which I’m trying to do right now. If the majority were able to live actively… then our current society would be void.
There is no right way to explore or method to achieve an active way of living, only your way, and if you are told that there is a path to active living, know that is always the wrong way.