Of Happiness and Omelas

“There has never been a great individual who did not have ordinary people at his side.” Anon

A community. I once heard of a story titled “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” a story which tells about how the happiness or welfare of a community depends upon the misfortune of one of its members—in that case, an isolated child who is locked alone in a windowless basement under the city’s (Omelas’) happy life. The child, who appears to be about six years old, is poorly fed and is left naked in that little, dark, dilapidated corner. He cannot go out lest unhappiness dominate the city. Frankly speaking, the child has to be let alone. His happiness could be the city’s downfall.

Well, does happiness run the risk of perpetrating evil upon someone, even upon our very selves?

Cruelty clearly has its share, and so does caprice. To the child isolated from the rest of the world, alienation could be the most formidable experience he has. He is, after all, a child—a young human with longings of home and friends, toys and gifts, love and identity. However true these may be, he is cast into that little, dark corner where he is to learn that the world’s happiness hangs upon his isolation.

But, what if it was the child’s voluntary decision to sacrifice his welfare in exchange for the world’s? It must have been honorable for the child to inflict such pain upon himself. So, he carries it for the good of all.

In life, greatness does not just come from our natural proficiency. Neither does it come from our renowned abilities that surpass others. Reciprocity. What of family? What of friends? What of all the ties we had, have and will have? It is, therefore, not a question of “who shaped who” or of “did you decide you”, but simply a factual statement that we are a community of peculiar beings who may have yet to know the happiness of liberty.



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