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.
Getting a girl to like you is as simple as becoming everything she wants in a man. That’s not to be confused with what she says she wants in a man. It’s the whole confident/bold/charming/successful/asshole mix that every girl wants. When you’ve become that man a few times, you start to recognize the moment it happens instantly. All of her hopes and dreams are realized in you, and you feel a tremendous sense of power and dominance that comes with being a girl’s total sense of being. And even if the path you took to get her was somewhat contrived and staged, it doesn’t much matter because you’ve ‘picked up’ another girl, which quite reasonably is an end in and of itself. Then you do this a few times.
Then a few more…
After awhile, you look at the girls you pick up a little differently. The sense of conquest you used to have at the moment you “got her” is, you decide, nothing more than foolish machismo. The dominance and power you used to feel so proud of is dwarfed by the jealousy you have of the girl. Look at her. She has a level of satisfaction that you’ll never have. You’re the perfect man to her, and you know there’s no woman in the world who could do the same thing for you.
You just sit across from them, playing all the cards you know will turn her on, and for what? You have to be the perfect guy for her because that’s the way the game works. You want to pick up girls? You have to get them to choose you above all other options. Then they get the satisfaction of getting exactly what they wanted, even if it’s for a short amount of time. But there’s no choosing on your end really. The whole trick of getting a girl you want is to get her to end up choosing you. Where’s the satisfaction in that? It’s indirect, making the satisfaction from it less than what it is for her. So you just sit across from them, jealous that you can’t be them.
I conclude that picking up girls has some satisfaction, but not enough to justify life’s primary focus for it. At least not for a lifetime. Because who wants to play a game where your opponent gets more satisfaction than you do? It’s like fighting someone with a smile on their face that gets bigger every time you hit them with a right haymaker. It’s maddening.
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“The meaning of life is achieving satisfaction.” – DC Hero
I define satisfaction as fulfilling a want or a need. The lowest times in life (depression, boredom, etc.) are times of no satisfaction. In either case, you either have nothing you want/need or you can’t get what you want/need. It’s very simple. Whenever ever I spend time or money on something and I need to evaluate if it was worth my effort, the one way I can measure it is by measuring the raw satisfaction gained from the aforementioned activity, which is exactly related to how much I wanted/needed what I got. I’ll do the math for you. Banging Hot Thai Girl = McGriddle On Hangover.
“Freedom From Want” – FDR
Of course, being free from wants is what many people, and many smart people, try to do. And I’ve done that over the past year. I’m free from wanting my three core wants: gambling, money, and Asian girls. But, hm. A life without wants is a life without satisfaction since ‘needs’ are mostly wants combined with lies. So I mean, there’s still the pleasures and happiness of life, but what’s life without satisfaction? It’s the slow death of retirement, and damn that shit to Hell on a houseboat.
This is why I’ll be spending the remainder of the Year coming up with a new want for 2009. Because freedom from wants wasn’t satisfying. This gives me a new purpose in life, and I suddenly realize that I had a want the entire time: I wanted to find another want. I’m sure finding it will prove to be very satisfying.
So what is this about? Oh yeah, I think people associate happiness with “the meaning of life” when that association is nothing more than a scam cooked up by Disney to sell more Lion King DVDs. Hakuna Matata my ass. When you think about the meaning of happiness and the meaning of satisfaction, it’s clear what the difference is and why you want a lot more of the latter.
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.