There is No Right Way to Live

Dec 11, 2014 by

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

– Aristotle


          Two Saturdays ago, I saw Cabaret on Broadway. It’s been one of my favourite musicals since my high school put on a rendition of it when I was in Grade 12. After watching the real thing, I wish I could go back in time to see how many adaptations Mayfield’s theatre department made to the original script. Broadway’s Cabaret covered themes that I can’t recall the Mayfield version touching on at all, such as sexual orientation and sexual experimentation. It also more prominently discussed the threat of Nazis to Jews. (Cabaret is set in Berlin in the 1930s.) Thus, unlike the performance I had seen in high school, this one delivered a strong message that was best summarized by The Kit Kat Club’s emcee, played by Alan Cumming: “Live and let live.”

          In other words, do as you please, and let everyone else do as they please. There is no need to be concerned with how other people live. As long as someone’s actions aren’t negatively impacting others, he or she should be free to act without commentary. Each person has a different definition of happiness and is entitled to live by it. Not only did Cabaret emphasize this on a political scale with regard to homosexuality and religion, it also addressed the issue of unconstructive criticism on a day-to-day level when Sally Bowles, portrayed by Emma Stone, said: “I think people are people, I really do, Cliff. Don’t you? I don’t think people should have to explain anything. For example, if I should paint my fingernails green – oh, and it just so happens I do paint them green – well, if anyone should ask me why, I say, ‘I think it’s pretty!’ ‘I think it’s pretty!’ I reply.”

          Today, most people have discretion when it comes to judging the big lifestyle differences among us – the ones that would be too taboo to condemn, the ones they realize would have more of a reflection on them for talking than on the people they’re talking about. Often, though, people forget that judging others for the little things – the green nail polish, the Instagram photos, the shoes they wear – is just as much a reflection of character as passing judgement on the big things, like race and socioeconomic status. As a result, there will always be critics. It is up to you to disregard yours. Maintaining your sense of self despite criticism is more important than avoiding criticism. There is no right way to live. It doesn’t matter if you’re staying in on a Friday night while most people are going out. It doesn’t matter if you’re travelling the world without regard for your career while most people are climbing the corporate ladder. It doesn’t matter if you’re renting while most people are buying. It doesn’t matter if you’re casually sleeping around while most people are exchanging rings. It doesn’t matter if you’re throwing back shots at clubs while most people are having children. I have one question for you: Are you happy? If so, please proceed.

Happiness Tip: Paint your fingernails green.

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