I’ve discovered the key to happiness. Imagine being able to act however you want in any situation regardless of what your family, friends, coworkers or people on the street might think. Imagine not being afraid to tackle the biggest problems that confront you and not feeling too inadequate to go after the fame and fortune that haunt your unfulfilled dreams. Just consider for a moment how liberating it would be to not be afraid to love. Is this happiness? I suppose we all have slightly varied definitions, but I think that being OK with any situation would at least positively aggravate the dials on the happiness meters of all our lives.
Yes, I find much comfort in knowing that I have complete control over one thing that affects every piece of my life – living - and that’s why I carry a vial of cyanide in my pocket everywhere I go. Cyanide is a very simple compound composed of one carbon and one nitrogen atom covalently engaged by a triple bond (see Figure 1a). This small molecule makes itself useful in the extraction of gold and silver, but it serves perhaps an even greater purpose: it can kill a person in a very low concentration. In fact, San Quentin has employed cyanide’s lethal properties by aerosolizing the compound for use in its gas chamber. However, the use of cyanide in the execution of death row inmates was deemed cruel and unusual by the 9th circuit in 1996. If it hadn’t been for that fateful 1973 case commuting all California death sentences prior to that date, Charles Manson himself would have breathed the fiery CN in his last gasp on Earth (see Figure 1b).
So what’s the appeal? How does cyanide equal happiness? Well, when you aren’t afraid of dying, it’s hard to feel that bad about anything else. When you can stop pain or anxiety at any moment, it doesn’t hurt as much. It’s ike jumping out of a plane when you know you can push a button at any time and be back home, safe, in bed. You’re more likely to make the jump and experience the thrill because the risk factor has been removed. Carrying a lethal dose of cyanide in my pocket is like having a Reset button (or one of those Staples Easy button but that actually does something); whenever I’m fearful of the repercussions of saying something that I want to say or doing something that I really want to do, I just reach into my pocket and finger that little vial, and all of the apprehension just rolls away. And when the lows are less low, the curve is shifted upward, making the highs much, much higher. This is perpetual happiness. (See Figure 2)
Figure 2: Perpetual Happiness
There is never a good time to do something new and challenging and scary. There will always be a reason to put it off – whatever IT may be. The “right time” will be when I am 5 minutes away from suicide and have nothing left to lose. And, in my opinion, that is the worst reason in the world to do something… but the system works. Try it.