“To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.” – Bertrand Russell
Two quotes! Well, it’s been a while. You deserve two quotes.
I was thinking about gratitude and all the 50 million things I’m grateful for, and I was going to write about that. But then, I found a quote I liked, and then while looking for a picture for the post, I found another I liked, that seemed to kind of contradict the first. It’s happened before (with this post) and here it was, again. So, odd as it seems, right after THANKSgiving, I’ve found myself writing about wanting instead of gratitude.
First, the Bertrand Russell quote: having no wants does sound appealing. But then, does it get boring after a while? So maybe part of happiness is like the kite post in the sense that challenge and strain and work serve to push us to new heights and fulfill us. In this sense, happiness is as much about that feeling of working towards what you want as much as it is about achieving it.
But then JD Houston also has a point. To achieve new things, we have to do new things. It’s like the Tony Robbins (kinda cliche but true) quote, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Seems obvious, except when we fear change and keep doing the same old thing, and then whine about how nothing changes. Hmph.
Okay, so both points sound true. But if happiness is (at least partly) in the wanting of things, that means we don’t have them yet. So we’re in the crowded fish bowl, wanting the empty space to swim around and think our fishy thoughts, unbumped by our buddies’ fins and tails. And that wanting to be in the empty bowl is part of happiness. Hmm, but yet we do want to be in the other bowl, so aren’t we then unhappy with the crowded bowl?
I think it’s the “some of the things you want” part that is key. To be have nothing you want certainly would not lead to much happiness. Still, to be without any desires or wanting, to be completely satisfied with every aspect of your life, might not be so good either. That sounds strange, but bear with me.
Maybe complete lack of wanting becomes nirvana, rather than happiness. Nirvana is sort of outside the realm of human, it’s something spiritual and other-worldly. You’re completely blissful and whole, so there’s no need to do anything at all! At least that’s how I think of it. I think of nirvana as a state hardly ever attainable by us mere mortals, while we walk this earth, anyhow. At the very least, we’re going to be hungry soon…so there’s something to want! Mmm, bacon…
Happiness, though, that’s something we can have. Right here, right now. Not all the time, of course! We’ve gone over that a few times. But some of the time. And to have it, we have to be satisfied with most of what we have. And be willing to try new things to get to new experiences and successes, like that empty fishbowl.