Happiness is finding a scapegoat

IN BUDAPEST, a man goes to his rabbi and complains: “Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?”

The rabbi answers: “Take the goat into the room with you.”

The man is incredulous, but the rabbi insists. “Do as I say, and come back in a week.”

A week later the man comes back looking more distraught than before. “We cannot stand it,” he tells the rabbi. “The goat is filthy.”

The rabbi then tells him, “Go home and let the goat out. And come back in a week.”

A radiant man returns to the rabbi a week later, exclaiming, “Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there's no goat – only the nine of us.”

– George Mikes

The angry diary

One way to reduce hostility is to keep a log of what makes you angry. Realising how trivial many of your gripes are, can help you control anger.

Running helps me to really breathe

I think to feel peaceful in one's life there has to be balance. My running gives me that. Among all the chaos with my kids, household, and business, a 30-minute jog in the woods allows me to really breathe and keep the demands of the day in perspective.

– Lynn Williams, Canadian record holder in the 1500m

Feasting and sorrow

Those who dream of the banquet, wake up to lamentation and sorrow. Those who dream of lamentation and sorrow wake to join the hunt. While they dream, they do not know that they are dreaming. Some will even interpret the very dream they are dreaming; and only when they awake do they know it was a dream. By and by comes the great awakening, and then we find out that this life is really a great dream.

Fools think they are awake now, and flatter themselves they know – this one is a prince and that one is a shepherd. What narrowness of mind! Confucius and you are both dreams; and I who say you are dreams – I am but a dream myself.

– Chuangchou, On levelling all things, translated by Lin Yutang, The Wisdom of China (1956)

The imprint on the snow

As from a dream one may awake to find
Its passion yet imprinted on the heart
Although all else is cancelled from the mind,
So of my vision now but little part
Remains, yet in my inmost soul I know
The sweet instilling which it did impart.
So the sun melts the imprint on the snow
Even so the Sybil’s wisdom that was penned
On light leaves vanished on the winds that blow.

– Dante, Divine Comedy, Paradise, Canto 33, from line 58
The Sybil priestess in Cumae wrote her oracles on leaves

Life’s troubles

When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.

– Winston Churchill

Simple living, deliberate living

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow of life...

– Henry David Thoreau

People want to know how low an income they can live on. They want to know if they should keep their condo in the city. Does simple living mean giving up their car? Does it mean never travelling? Does it mean living in poverty? Do you have to go meditate on top of a mountain in Tibet to be really simple? Do you have to live in an austere house? Must you live an austere existence? Can you never go to restaurants or movies?

Simple living is about living deliberately. That's all.

– Janet Luhrs, The Simple Living Guide

Happiness is sex

The more frequent you have sex the happier you are, says a lecturer. To prove his point he asked those in the audience who indulged every night to raise their right hands. Only about five percent did so, all laughing merrily. He then asked how many indulged about once a week and approximately 70 percent raised their hands, smiling contentedly as they did so. Then the people who indulged once every month were asked to raised their hands, but these people neither laughed nor smiled.

The lecturer felt this has proved his point. But to reinforce it further he asked those who indulged only once every year to raise their hands. A tall man at the back of the hall leapt from his chair, waving his hand and laughing loudly.

The lecturer was astonished at this apparent contradiction to his thesis and he asked the man if he could explain why he was so happy. The man replied: “Certainly. It’s tonight! It’s tonight!”

– Kevin-Goldstein Jackson

The end of everything good

When you die, all the good things in your life come to a stop: no more meals, movies, travel, conversation, love, work, books, music, or anything else. Of course you won't miss them; death is not like being locked up in solitary confinement. But the ending of everything good in life, because of the stopping of life itself, seems clearly to be a negative evil for the person who was alive and is now dead. When someone we know dies, we feel sorry not only for ourselves but for him, because he can't see the sun shine today, or smell the bread in the toaster.

When you think of your own death, the fact that all the good things in life will come to an end is certainly a reason for regret. But that doesn't seem to be the whole story. Most peope want there to be more of what they enjoy in life, but for some people, the prospect of nonexistence is itself frightening – the thought that the world will go on without you, that you will become NOTHING, is very hard to take in.

Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean? (1987)

Compiled by Francis Chin

Contents  |  Happiness is a Pretty Girl

light leaves that vanished on the winds
light leaves that vanished on the winds