Monday, July 07, 2008

meaning and happiness

The happy man does not look back.  He doesn't look ahead.  He lives in the present.

But there's the rub.  The present can never deliver one thing: meaning.  The ways of happiness and meaning are not the same.  To find happiness, a man need only live in the moment; he need only live for the moment.  But if he wants meaning - the meaning of his dreams, his secrets, his life - a man must reinhabit his past, however dark, and live for the future, however uncertain.  Thus nature dangles happiness and meaning before us all, insisting only that we choose between them.
Jed Rubenfield, The Interpretation of Murder

I have decided that I am just not constitutionally designed to be happy.  I'd like to be happy, and I think it would probably be quite satisfying.  I know people who are happy - who are quite content with their lives pretty much as they are.  I am married to one of those people.  I don't think I'm ever going to be one of those people.

I want to matter.  I want my life to be significant.  I'm not saying happy people are insignificant.  But I wonder whether people who are more likely to achieve things (yes, my definition of 'things' includes some things and not others...) are likely to people who are driven.  And people who are driven are, by definition, trying to get somewhere because they are not satisfied with where they are.

I like my life.  I think I'm pretty fortunate.  But I think there's more.  I could be doing more, being more, making more of a difference.  I do think there is always greener grass.  And, right now, I'm planning on how to find it.

Even if I don't find the rest of Mr Rubenfeld's book 'spectacular' and 'fiendishly clever' as the Guardian has promised I will, I'm grateful to him for making me feel it's ok to want more than just happiness.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The best thing about Indonesia was...

There are things I loved about Indonesia.  The food was very nice, for example, and the weather was quite pleasant - it rained once for half an hour during our two-week visit.  The people are friendly.  Seeing Emily and Paul, my best friend in all the world, and their two boys was great - it was so much fun!  

There are also things I didn't like.  Travelling for 30 hours to get there and back wasn't fun.  Nor was the crazy driving.  Coming from the long days of British Summer Time to it being dark at 6pm was completely weird - it felt like 11.30 pm at 7.30 pm.

We did some amazing things - we went to Borobadur, a 1300-year-old Buddhist temple, made of interlocking blocks of lava.  We saw a volcano.  We went to the beach and body-boarded in the Indian Ocean.  I became 29.  We saw rice growing.  We survived spending 30 hours together on a plane without going mad.

And we rode on elephants...

How cool is that?*

The whole visit kind of made me want to go and live in a foreign culture and learn a new language again.  And kind of made me very glad to live exactly where I do...

*The tour guide at Borobodur, who was very knowledgeable and interesting, thought he was taking photos but actually pressed the video button by mistake...