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The Pursuit of Happiness

Posted by on 14 March 2016

Rain on a Friday afternoon almost always guarantees traffic jams of massive proportions. Cars crawl excruciatingly through highways like turtles stuck in peanut butter. On the positive side, such moments allow my mind to wander and have the chance to think and reflect on. Thus, today’s reflection on man’s eternal pursuit of happiness was brought to you by last Friday afternoon’s gridlock.

It occurred to me that frustration arises when one of these happens:
1) We know exactly what it is that we want but it’s waaaay out of our reach;
2) We can get the thing that we want but it’s not what we need; or
3) The thing that we want is also the thing that satisfies our need BUT it’s not within reach.

Basically, in diagram form, it’s like 3 separate circles — what I want, what I need, and what I can have.


When two circles overlap each other, some degree of satisfaction takes place, i.e. when the thing that I want fulfills a need; when I get to have the thing that I want; or when I get the thing that I need. However, happiness can only be achieved if all three circles overlap, i.e. the thing that we want the most also fulfills a need within us and it’s within our reach.

Our needs come about due to our specific individual situations and we have no control over them.

The things that we get are dictated by a Divine Power. We can work relentlessly towards the achievement of certain things but ultimately, despite all efforts, only God decides if we get it or not. But at the same time, no one knows what our fate is exactly; all we can do is do our very best and allow God to do the rest, as our teachers used to teach us in kindergarten. (Funny how, the more things change, they more they stay the same.)

Therefore, it is quite apparent that, of these three circles, the only thing that we have some degree of control over is our wants, which has a lot to do with our attitude. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done…but it CAN be done. For instance, I want to have the latest smartphone. But I don’t really need it because mostly I just WhatsApp and take pics to upload to Instagram and Facebook. I don’t need all those fancy game controls and magic pen stick and whatnot. And maybe, even if I do need such a phone, I can’t have it either due to financial reasons. So the only thing that I can do is to divert that overwhelming desire that I have for that particular smartphone then I won’t be as miserable.

Of course, it gets more complicated when we don’t know what we want or when we confuse our needs with our wants (and vice versa).

But even if all three circles overlap, whatever happiness we achieve will never last for long. As humans, we will always be lusting for the next new thingamajig, the next big adventure, the next awesome achievement. As a learned scholar once explained, our desire for happiness and perfection is merely a reflection of our desire for Paradise. So no matter what we achieve on this earth and no matter how much we get on this earth, we will never be able to satisfy that longing deep within us because this world is only a temporary resting place, and is merely a tool — an implement to be used but not to be enjoyed, as one would use a brush or a shovel (credits: NAK) — which we utilise to work for what comes after this fleeting life.

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