I was reading Adam Smith today for some improbable and incomprehensible reason when I came across this great quote on happiness from the founder (more accurately, the first intellectual defender) of free-trade and Capitalism:
The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another… In all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.
– Adam Smith, 1759
In other words, unbounded ambitions and unbounded fears lead to unclear goals, gross excesses, and no satisfaction.
To me, happiness, pleasure, and satisfaction are all eerily synonymous. If I spend my life searching for all three, the road will never fork itself. And this particular road isn’t a compartmentalized analogy, it illustrates that idea that a very real journey is involved. I call it, ‘The Journey’. It doesn’t need any more adjectives to confuse that fact that it’s the only real journey worth undertaking. Any remotely questionable move I make in life can be answered with this idea internalized.
- ‘Why are you moving to Australia?’
- ‘Why would you do that in public?’
- ‘Why are you banging that awful tramp again?’
“I’m on The Journey, man.”
To me, the difference between a travel and a journey is that a journey has no real destination. If it did, the journey would lose all of it’s meaning and would devalue into being nothing more than a means (however exotic) to an end. A real journey has no end. Let’s get to the story already.
… I didn’t want to miss out on the fun, so I stampeded an American couple after they got shoved into my path by some of my fellow countrymen who ran on-board like it was the last bus out of hell. After the dust settled, the seats weren’t even close to being filled, which didn’t reveal a strand of irony to anyone who had just fought their way through the queue. I sat in the back near the rear door (the best bus seat there is), which was luckily in earshot of the American couple I just had a brush with. The man said something like “first the bus was late, then we get beat up trying to get on” before finishing his frustrated thought with the word off the tongue of the traveler I hate most: an exasperated “… (sigh) incredible!” which is usually delivered with a side to side head shake and a palm strike on the thigh.
I wanted to go up to the guy and tell him that life (especially on vacation) isn’t about having your transportation expectations met pound and ounce. Life is a journey, and if you don’t pay attention to how you get there, you’ll miss out on all of it. It’s a lot like love. Love isn’t a destination. You don’t get to “being in love” and stay there, basking in love day in and day out from here to eternity. Being in love is a journey of falling in (and out of) love. In other words, the love disappears when the ebb and flow of love stops because human beings weren’t built to stay put and relax, they were built to explore their surroundings. Otherwise, they might as well stand naked into the wind and melt into the sun because there’s nothing left for them to do in this life.