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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bmag Oct 22nd 2013 - Happiness is Healthy

I’m about to quote a very private essay I wrote when I was 17. I recorded the words into a micro-cassette recorder whilst lying in bed, then transcribed and finessed my latenight philosophising into a written document to be packed away in a box and not revisited until later in life.

This is the first time since then – 3 February 1990 – that I’ve looked at these three typed and dot-matrix-printed pages yet I have often thought about what I wrote and how I still agree with 17-year-old me. The essay is entitled – cue the dramatic music – “The Meaning of Life”.

What inspired me to share this with you now was a blackboard outside a clothing shop in Toowong. On the board were the words: “Do more of what makes YOU happy.” It stopped me in my tracks. On the surface, it might seem an egotistical approach to life. But I believe much good can and does come from people pleasing themselves.

Seventeen-year-old Spencer takes up the story: “While we cannot answer why we are here, we can explain why we do the things we do. “Having resigned to the fact that we are here, and that we are only here for a short time, humans all attempt to make the most of that time. It is my firm belief that every human being seeks pleasure as the number one lifetime goal. No-one ever does anything that does not bring pleasure or prevent displeasure. Every single human action has pleasure as its goal. Even the hero who risks his life to save a child from a burning house does so to prevent the possible displeasure he would otherwise feel for not trying. Given there is no reason, no why, no explanation for us being here, why do people breed more people? Again, for the pleasure. The pleasure of parenting, the pleasure of resuscitating the marriage, or the pleasure of security and care in the senior years”.

At this point, the essay really does start to sound like it was a written by a wide-eyed innocent 17-year-old boy, but I said I would share it with you so here goes: “The ultimate pleasures, according to the Krishna movement, are eating and sex. You can only eat so much before you become ill, and even sex has its limits.” How funny.

I’ll save you several paragraphs and jump to the conclusion: “Now we are coming closer to the meaning of life. Lifestyle, it would appear, is a conscious attempt to make the most of a limited lifetime. Whilst there is no reason for life, there is a reason for lifestyle.” It goes on (and on and on) but you get the idea. Over the years, whenever I’ve heard about people doing great deeds, I’ve found myself asking the question: are they getting pleasure from this? Invariably, yes, they are. And it’s not a bad thing. Happiness is not a dirty word. Charity workers, from Meals on Wheels kitchens in Brisbane to orphanages in third world countries, are all harnessing their own desire for happiness and using it to help others.

Even those working within church organisations who would say they are serving God are also making themselves happier in the process. As that blackboard said, “Do more of what makes YOU happy”. To take it one step further, I would just say that if you can find a way of helping others that makes you happy, then you’ve hit the jackpot!

Last column, I told you about my wife Nikki now working at 612 ABC Brisbane. I wasn’t overly anxious about the situation but I knew there would be some challenges and I quoted other couples who had worked together. I’m pleased to report that I have loved these past three weeks!

With me presenting 612 Breakfast and Nikki producing Tim Cox 3pm to 6pm, there’s only an hour or so where we’re in the office together. But for the eight years I’ve been on the cornflakes shift, I haven’t seen Nikki until she’s arrived home from work, usually after 7pm. So to be able to gaze at her for that hour a day has been wonderful. And so far, only once has she asked me over the partition to pick up milk and bread on the way home!

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