By Roger Lloyd
H uman beings like to be happy and strive to be so. Happiness may be defined as the fulfillment of one's desires. In mathematical terms, the function can be expressed as:
As you can see, when the denominator and numerator are equal the formula equals "1". All desires are fulfilled and complete happiness is attained. Why then are few people really happy? Let's look at the problem from the angle of this equation.
When the numerator (Fulfillment) is less than the denominator (Desires), people attempt to increase the amount of fulfillment to become happier. However, trying to completely fulfill one's desires seldom achieves its purpose and is ultimately destructive. It is seldom achieved because as the equation approaches "1", "Desires" usually increase and therefore "Fulfillment" must again be increased to attain a perfect "1". And so it goes, an endless cycle of striving to fulfill one's desires only to find that one is never really satisfied. It is destructive because one becomes increasingly consumed with appeasing the ever increasing desires to the exclusion of all else. Greater and greater consumption will only have negative impacts on others (the environment and future generations) and, depending on the means of attainment (ie. crime), will make others unhappy.
Is there any way out of this paradox? I think there is a better way to achieve more happiness - decrease the amount of desires. By lowering one's desires instead of increasing fulfillment, the equation also approaches "1" (complete happiness). The beauty of this method is that it lies completely within oneself, both in terms of not being dependent on others and in not affecting others. Unlike trying to increase fulfillment, there is no upward creep in desires nor the accompanying ever increasing drive to fulfill them. By reducing desires rather than increasing fulfillment, true happiness becomes a much more attainable aspiration.
The Japanese have a saying (actually taken from a 19th century Irishman who immigrated to Japan): Soboku, Zenryo, Kan-i (Simple, Good, Plain). How applicable for many situations!
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