There is a catchy and rather funny Hokkien song going around with the singer vocalizing what he would do if he had a million bucks. He’s thinks by accomplishing all those things he was unable to do prior to becoming a millionaire, he would be a very happy man.
I refer to this as “conditional happiness” – you attain a status or make an acquisition (purchase an asset of some kind) and then happiness follows.
The fact of the matter is that such happiness is often fleeting and doesn’t last.
Such happiness may not even happen. Eagerly waiting in anticipation of a future “success” (for the babe next door to fall in love with you, for striking TOTO 12-million dollar hong bao draw, for your evil mother-in-law to die, etc) robs you of the here and now.
And even if the much-anticipated event really happens – unlikely as it may be – that burst of euphoria will soon dissipate and you’ll be left asking “Is this it? Is this all there is?”
When I was in high school, I was fascinated by magic tricks and after saving my pocket money I would go to a store to buy some tricks to perform for friends and every time the so-called secrets of the tricks were revealed to me, I always felt let down. “Huh? Is this it? Is this all there is?”
Same feeling here.
Call it buyer’s remorse if you want, but you know what I mean.
It’s like porn; porn addicts tell me after a while, only the most perverted and sickening hardcore types of porn will titillate them.
It’s like cars; the faster a car you drive, the slower it becomes, because you now want a much faster car.
It’s like big screen TVs; the larger the TV the smaller it becomes because you now want a mega size super huge screen.
Okay I’m sure you get my point.
Fair enough, you are entitled to a certain degree of gratification upon reaching a goal but you are going to be very unhappy if you think that every time a goal has been achieved or a target met, you will be happy and that such happiness will last.
Often things feel anticlimactic and a bit of a disappointment.
I turn 63 tomorrow and lately, well-bred reverential younger people decades younger than me have been asking me what the key to my cheerfulness and good humor is.
“Lohcifer, what makes you so happy all the time?”
Me happy all the time?
If only they knew!
People don’t see the pain I feel inside of me.
They have no idea that for me, every day is another day of outward smiles and inward screams.
This is due to incapacitating pain since 2012 due to a bad back, and prior to that due to a herniated cervical (neck) disk.
That neck problem is long over, but the back pain since 2012 persists till today.
1. Don’t look for conditional happiness
Anyway, I am definitely no expert on happiness but not thinking of happiness as a transaction or as something conditional, may be a good start.
If you think of happiness as a cause and effect thing, you are going to end up very unhappy.
You ought to be happy just being.
2. Stop obsessing about your image
Secondly, stop obsessing about how you look.
I feel sad for those people who spend heaps of money trying to project a certain image.
Does my hair look right?
Do I look good in pink?
Do my shoes match my belt?
Do my selfies with celebrities indicate that I am someone who’s up there with the stars, that I’m a member of the glitterati?
Does my handbag look expensive?
Does my “showreel” on social media project the impression I want others to have?
My advice: most people don’t care unless you look so obviously hideous because you’ve neglected basic personal grooming, dandruff is all over your shoulders, you don’t brush your teeth or you don’t shower and every time you walk by, people think a skunk has farted. People have lives to lead and battles to fight. They don’t take time to salivate over the fact that you flew on Singapore Airlines Suite class to/from New York and paid an arm and a leg (at least US$20,000/-) for it. Truth be told, they probably think you are a fucking moron throwing away money like that. Come on, the truly wealthy have private jets. They don’t fly commercial so please don’t try to impress anyone.
In any case, external things can’t fix internal issues.
If you are reasonably well groomed (just the basics will suffice), and you take care of your body, you should be fine. I look around me and I see lots and lots of revolting, repugnant and repulsive fat and morbidly obese men and women who are disgustingly overweight, sauntering around, calves as thick as tree trunks, and panting hard, breathless, and sweating like pigs. Please, please don’t be like them! These people will be plagued with illnesses when they grow older and they will die young. Their children will become orphans.
I see more and more young women walking around with huge panniculus (or “apron bellies”) and it makes me want to carry a bucket with me when I go out. Why? So that I can puke. It’s so fucking disgusting, my nausea meter hits the roof when these horrific species of humans come into my line of sight and I wish they could vanish at the snap of my fingers.
No, I am not fat shaming anyone but seriously how can a morbidly obese landwhale be deemed to be attractive?
It may sound callous of me to say it but those who say “I don’t have body image issues” are only deceiving themselves. If you are fatter than an elephant, and your weight is the combined weight of an elephant plus a rhino, how can you not have body image issues unless your brain is also malfunctioning?
Fatness is ugly. Fat people are an eyesore. The morbidly obese should be hidden from view.
If your BMI exceeds your IQ, please seek medical help!
3. Live life on your own terms
Thirdly, don’t live a life that others expect you to live.
You are your own person, follow your heart.
The Japanese folks from Okinawa believe in a concept called “Ikigai.” See Venn diagram below:
- What you are good at
- What you love to do
- What the world needs
- What you can be paid for
In areas of overlap, for example “do what you love and do what you are good at” you will have passion.
If you do what you love and what the world needs, then you have a mission.
In most situations, it is a simple case of doing what the world needs and getting paid for, it is a vocation.
You do what you are good at and get paid for it, it is a profession.
When you can find something that meets all four aspects, you would have found your Ikigai, your reason for being.
You will never die of hunger. You will never be a destitute. You will never be a hobo.
Academic qualifications equal “insurance” of sorts, but being able to monetize your passion or even hobby will ensure you will never have to rely on handouts for the rest of your life. As long as you make enough to sustain yourself, you are already a rich person. You are a rich person if you know how to live within your means and be contented with what you have. Others will always have more than you, envy is the ulcer of the soul. Don’t give yourself ulcers!
4. Your work is your legacy
Fourthly, every time you have done a piece of work, ask yourself three questions:
- Have I done my best?
- Could I have done better?
- How could I have done better?
Your work is your legacy. Your “deliverables” are about you. Mow the lawn like a retard and it says something about you. Produce a PowerPoint presentation that looks like crap and it says something about you. Write a paper full of typos and misspellings and bad grammar and it says something about you. Similarly, mess up your room to look like a pig sty and it says something about you. Pee and shit all over the toilet like a drunken moron and it says something about you. (It never ceases to amaze me how few people know how to use the toilet properly.) Break a promise you made and it says something about you. Not fulfilling a commitment you made and it says something about you.
Do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life. You don’t want people saying “yeah, look at that shit he left behind.”
5. Touch lives
And fifth, are you touching lives in a positive way?
Are you a freeloading parasitic rectum worm (like a lot of clergyman or that priest I met in Greece) or are you a person who touches the lives of the people around you in a positive, uplifting and edifying manner? Do you give or do you just take, take and take like you are such a self-obsessed entitled princeling? Is there a friend needing a favor, a text message, an encouragement, a little gift or some companionship? Is there a little money you can spare to alleviate the financial burdens of someone? Is there a neighbor who could do with a smile from you?
What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other? – George Eliot
“What makes you so happy most of the time?”
It also depends on how you define happiness.
Einstein said “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”
The quality of the questions we ask determines the quality of the results we get.
To me, a life free from ill health is happiness. A life with caring, filial, respectful, polite and grateful children, children who understand the meaning of “priority” is happiness. A life with a supporting and understanding spouse is happiness. A life free from needless angst and irritating scumbags is happiness. A life lived in a manner that make others happy is happiness.
Many parents want their children to become winners: number one in school, top-earning doctors and architects, etc but when I was growing up, almost on a daily basis, my parents would ask me what I did to help others. As a result, I grew up actively looking for opportunities to be helpful, and acting upon them. When my own kids were young, I was gratified to see them wanting to do stuff for their friends; even during our family vacations, my kids would look for souvenirs to buy for their classmates. My mum referred to this as cultivating “moral excellence.”
6. Travel alone if possible
Sixth, if at all possible travel alone.
It forces independence upon you.
Plus it opens up a world of adventure to you.
Traveling companions are encumbrances. A friend’s sister (who is married and has a daughter) has the habit of going on vacation all by herself. I used to think rather negatively of this notion until I started noticing many friends “unfriended” each other after a trip together. I know of two women who became sworn enemies because during a trip, both wanted to buy the same antique they both coveted. When you travel alone, you are your own person: you don’t have to pander to the needs or whims and fancies of your traveling companions. You don’t have to put up with narcissistic behavior like somebody snapping up some good buys (and not asking if you want any) and then walking around with a smug look, or having to sleep with some hideous monster who snores and farts and burps louder than a locomotive, or look with astonishment at some kleptomaniac room mate who goes on a rampage and ransacks the hotel room for stuff to cart home: Nespresso pods, little pieces of soap, tiny bottles of shampoo, disposable slippers, shower caps, laundry bags, etc are stowed away before you can use them! Being alone means not having to put up with vapid and insidious individuals who even before the plane has taken off, shaft headphones into their ears for movies (as though movies are only available on board planes) and totally shutting off all communications with you. (These people lack social intelligence as they don’t realize that such egregious behavior is a not-so-subtle way of telling someone to fuck off, actually.)
7. Be grounded spiritually
Seventh, seek to be grounded spiritually.
I take great comfort and seek solace from – for want of a better word – religion. I hate the word “religion” but I can’t think of another word, so that will do, for now.
No, it is not a crutch, it is not opiate. I am not mentally feeble. I am not an intellectual lightweight. I am not a weakling.
I have a really wonderful wife, three very fantastic children and two super lovable grandkids, and a great son-in-law who’s in IT but does better steaks than Peter Luger, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse and Morton’s combined, but circumstances – and certain people – in my life force me onto my knees.
It’s important to have spiritual grounding.
By that I don’t necessarily mean going to church every Sunday, or visiting the temple, or praying five times a day facing a certain direction.
I’m talking more about your personal relationship with your maker.
I refer to mine as the Great Geometrician of the Universe.
My belief in the Great Geometrician of the Universe sustains me, keeps me going, comforts my soul, gives me peace of mind, helps me deal with pain, buffers me from life’s shocks, disappointments and heartaches as well as the curve balls life hurls at me once every so often.
Most people don’t know this about me, but I was a devout churchgoer since my teens, a protestant. Once upon a time, I cited chapter and verse as the basis of whatever idea I was presenting. I spouted more scripture than the Pope himself. I memorized entire books of the Bible (I bet even the Bishop can’t do that!) I even studied theology and divinity and Biblical languages. And though I am not an ordained minister here, I used to be a frequent preacher at churches including the church in which I am still a member of. However, an incident a couple of years back (basically I was accused of being disrespectful of the reigning pastor because he thought I took a dig at him when I was preaching and the entire brown-nosing sycophantic church government came down hard on me) with the result that I was so disgusted I turned my back against organized religion, although I did not bother to resign my membership. In walking out of the church, I turned my back in one fell swoop against all its spiritually-questionable leaders, most of whom feel so entitled to the perks and benefits of being men and women of the cloth and are glory-seeking and money-grabbing, materialistic, carnal and immoral political animals who instead of shepherding their flocks and being role models leading exemplary lives, end up stumbling others in the end.
But between me and the Great Geometrician of the Universe, no problem, although I am now more drawn to stoicism and have recently just completed formal studies on it. But those still attracted to the church, the following old proverb is good advice:
Protect yourself from the hinder part of a mule,
The front part of a woman, from the side part of a wagon,
And from all sides of the priesthood.
Life is never trouble-free: if you want perfume, you’ve got to crush some flowers, if you want omelets, you’ve gotta break some eggs, if you want wine, you’ve got to step on some grapes, if you want to collect money long owed to you, you’ve gotta break some legs. And if you get lemons, so what? Go make some lemonade. If you get melons, it’s probably just dyslexia, and nobody dies from dyslexia.
I know, because I’ve transpose numbers since I could read.
And I’ve lasted this long. I’m more than okay so far, back pain notwithstanding. And tomorrow I turn 63.
It’s the great beginning of yet another new and glorious season of my blessed life!
What a wonderful time to be alive!
There’s nothing like the vim and vigor accompanying a great birthday!