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
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
And so far, only once has she asked me over
the partition to pick up milk and bread on the