Do you measure happiness by the number of dreams you’ve made come true, or by accepting life as it comes to you? It’s very hard to control reality. If your whim is to go to the movies, that’s not to hard to make real. But if your whim is to travel to Europe, that requires a lot of effort to make into a reality. If your dream is to become a Nobel Prize winning scientist, then you’re moving into the world of chance, no matter how hard you work.
Recently, my wife and I were talking about our regrets, and things we wished we had done when we were young. We are both lazy, and neither one of us have strong motivational drives. I said it’s a shame we didn’t do more when we were young, but maybe we did the things we really wanted to do, like watch TV, go to the movies, play with our cats, hang out with friends and family, read books, and so on – just ordinary everyday things.
Our friend Olivia has been on hundreds of vacations, while Susan and I have probably been on less than 50 each in our whole life. If you measure success in life by where you’ve been, then we have little. We know many people with beautifully decorated homes that we envy, but our house has the couch potato décor of two TV watching experts. We’ve met rich and successful people, and by those yardsticks we come up short too. But have they read the thousands of books I have? I’m a bookworm, so I live to read.
If success in life is measured by making fantasies come true, we haven’t done very well. The trouble is I have at least a dozen good fantasies a day – that’s about a quarter million daydreams in my lifetime. Which ones should I have made come true? You see, I think our society is too bamboozled by desires.
Because of television we see how millions of other people live and we think we should have their lives too. If we see someone go to Colorado for a ski trip we feel bad if we can’t too. If we know someone with a Porsche we feel bad we don’t have an high performance sports car too. Susan’s brother and wife are going on their second trip to Europe, and Susan probably feels bad we’ve never had our first.
Me, I feel I go to Europe all the time. The two books I’m currently listening to are from Russia and England. The last movie I watched from Netflix was French. I regularly read The Guardian. I watch a lot of TV from England, read a lot of books by European authors, and regularly read histories about Europe. I love European painters, and have seen many of their great work here in traveling exhibits. I’m studying classical music, most of which has European origins. In high school I studied German, and in college Spanish. And I can’t count how many documentaries I’ve seen on European history, art and science. I once started an internet business with a guy from Paris. It’s not like I don’t know about the place, I’ve just never been there. I’m fascinated by Western civilization, but have little desire to see the relics, and if I did, the main reason would be to see the paintings. Most of what I actually like about Europe is in books and music, which transcends space and time.
One of the things I realized from my discussion with Susan was that I live in my head, and I think most people don’t. To Susan and most of my friends, the real world is where they can see, hear, touch, smell and taste external to their bodies. Success is measured by experience or accumulation.
I live in a different world. I think life is philosophical, and you live it as it happens. Success is measured by how well you digest it. It’s not what you see, but how you see it. It’s not what you earn, but how you earn it. It’s not who you know, but how you know each other.
What’s funny, is by my method of measuring, or theirs, no matter how much external or internal success you find, it’s never enough. If you don’t die with regrets, then you never looked very far.
JWH – 4/19/14