Monday, February 28, 2022

Take time for calm contemplation

It is easy to get caught up in our daily business. Everything seems to be a priority. Everything except time to ourselves. But without time to ourselves, how can we truly contemplate our lives? 

We all want to live wisely. But that means we need time to reflect on our day-to-day activities. Did I act justly to other people? Did I cause any harm? And if so, how can I put things right? True contemplation takes time. 

We need to set aside a few minutes each day for quiet contemplation. Perhaps those few minutes could extend to an hour. An hour free of distraction. An hour of stillness for peaceful thinking. It may be difficult at first, but in time we may begin to relish the stillness in our otherwise active lives. 

Friday, February 25, 2022

Loss can be good

During the pandemic many people have lamented the loss of their normal lives. They ruminate on the things they miss. Given our tendancy to form attachment to material pleasures, this is not surprising. If one derives happiness from eating in restaurants then one will no doubt feel a sense of loss when the restaurants are closed. It may be that the happier person is the one who has detached themself from those material sources of pleasure.

But such detachment is hard. So what can we do to maintain happiness in these difficult times? Perhaps we should focus less on what we have lost and more on what we have gained. Sure, we can't always visit our favorite restaurants, but we now have more time to work in the garden. It may be more difficult to travel abroad, but this affords time to enjoy local walks. Going dancing with friends is less common, but now the evenings can be spent on new hobbies - painting or perhaps poetry. 

Remember also that when something good is lost, painful things might go away too. You might have lost those boozy nights out, but you have also lost the awful hangovers. Losing things can be good.

So, try to remember that loss is not necessarily bad. Thinking about loss in a different way may bring opportunity and gratitude.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Can money buy happiness?

I have dialogued with many people over the years. A recurring theme is the concept of happiness. Yesterday I discussed this very theme with a wonderful young person named Oscar. Oscar argued that the statement "money can't buy happiness" is false. He told me that money can indeed buy happiness. Being as eager to learn as ever, I asked for an example. He responded by listing a range of products he's purchased which made him happy. The reasoning seemed to be as follows: when I purchase X, I am happy; therefore, money can buy happiness.

Still curious, I asked Oscar to show me one of the products he was referring to. He pointed to a lego model prominently displayed on a nearby shelf.

I carefully examined the model and asked, "Can you confirm that this is an example of money buying happiness?"

"Yes." he said.

Perplexed, I continued, "Can you please show me? Can you point to the happiness?"

He was confused by my request, so I elaborated. "You said that this is an example of happiness which you have bought with money. Well, where is it? All I see is a collection of plastic bricks. Can you point to this 'happiness' thing that you've purchased". 

He must have thought I was mad. He explained that the happiness was a feeling he felt while working with the bricks. 

I asked, "Is happiness guaranteed when someone buys bricks?"

He shook his head. "No, of course not."

"Ah", I said, "I understand. So the happiness is not a thing contained in the bricks, it comes from the person using the bricks. In this case, you." 

He agreed. 

I continued, "It seems that money can buy pieces of plastic but not happiness itself. Something more is required for that. Perhaps you could experience the same level of happiness by stacking pebbles or building sandcastles. The happiness is not a property of any of these things. Rather, it is a thing you create for yourself."

He reluctantly agreed to this point and we moved on to discuss other things. The point to be drawn from this is that there are many factors involved in happiness. Money alone is no guarantee of happiness. So we should be realistic with our expectations. Money doesn't really buy happiness.

- Socrates

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Do we really own anything?

Do we really own anything? Is true ownership possible at all? Take a look at your money and possessions and ask yourself, are they really mine? These things are here today and gone tomorrow. Nothing lasts forever. Even our lives are finite - as if temporarily borrowed from the universe. 

If true ownership is impossible, then it seems that pride in one's possessions is misplaced. It also seems that material attachment can lead to loss and despair. So, remind yourself daily that nothing lasts forever. Everything we possess, including our own lives, will eventually return to the universe.