Development Features

Connecting the dots, check your steps (Part 1)

IN A movie, The Marigold Hotel, the host said “in the end, everything is fine, if things are not fine, then it is not the end”.
Could it be true that things are fine only at the end?
I wish the answer was that simple. If they were, I would lay them in a single sentence and tell you that ‘the reason this year isn’t yet fine is because it is not over yet. But it is not that simple.
The idea of life is to live it backwards. The only way to understand things is to work backwards. Connect the dots.
At pre-school you must have learnt ‘connecting the dots’. This is where an animal, for instance, is drawn using dots, and then the teacher asks you to link them.
At first, you cannot make sense of what is in the picture, but as you connect the dots, the picture gets clearer and clearer. It starts to make sense.
And when you are done with connecting the dots, you will realise that the reason you couldn’t make sense of it is that you hadn’t finished the exercise.
So, how was your 2014? I know that most people would say it was great. Successful.
That is great, but how do you know that it was successful? Did you tick off most of the things you set out to do? It’s time we started to prepare the resolutions for 2015, what is on your wish list? Is happiness part of your resolutions? Happiness is not something that just comes, it is something you pursue.
You cannot leave it in the hands of fate. It is deadly to do that. Or maybe one of your resolutions for 2015 is to become rich?
That would be a great goal, to be rich and happy, don’t you think?
Riches and happiness can be paradoxical, though.  It is only true that the majority of the poor long for riches, believing that their possessions would bring them supreme and lasting happiness.
Many people who are rich, having gratified every desire and whim, driving whatever cars they want, suffer from languor and repletion.
They are farther from the possession of happiness than the poor. Some argue that money does not bring happiness.
As an economist, I would argue that ‘the more money one has, the more their utility (satisfaction)’.
Economists went further by studying countries and measuring their ‘happiness’. They discovered that nations with higher incomes were happier.
This means that people with more money are happier than those who do not have it. At least that is what economists say.
So as we set our goals to be rich and happy in 2015, we need to understand the all-important truth that happiness is not derived from mere outward possessions, nor misery from the lack of them.
For if this were so, we would find the poor always miserable, and the rich always happy, whereas the reverse is frequently the case.
Some of the most wretched people whom I know are those who are surrounded with riches and luxury, whilst some of the brightest and happiest people I have met possess only the barest necessities of life.
How do they do it, people? I ask so because I never seem to be in good state when I am broke.
I have had an opportunity of interacting with some of the richest men in this country.
I envy them, I am like “these ….., they got all the monies, the land, own all the houses in Lusaka”.
Well, that is what hard work does. Though these men have confessed that the selfish gratification which followed the acquisition of some of their riches has robbed life of its sweetness, and that they were never as happy as when they were poor.
When I heard them say this, I was like “are you crazy? Give me the money and watch how my happiness will quadruple”.
Most of us believe that happiness is only to be obtained by the gratification of desire.
It is this belief, rooted in the soil of ignorance, and continually watered by selfish cravings, that is the cause of all the misery in the world.
And I do not limit the word ‘desire’ to the grosser animal cravings; it extends to the higher psychic realm, where far more powerful, subtle, and insidious cravings hold in bondage the intellectual and the refined, depriving them of all that beauty, harmony and purity of soul whose expression is happiness.
Let’s see. What do we attribute unhappiness to? Most people will admit that selfishness is the cause of all the unhappiness in the world, but they fall under the soul-destroying delusion that it is somebody else’s selfishness, and not their own. When we are willing to admit that all our unhappiness is the result of our own selfishness then we will not be far from the gates of Paradise.
But so long as we are convinced that it is the selfishness of others that is robbing us of joy, we will remain prisoners in self-created ‘purgatory’.
What are your resolutions for 2015? Is happiness one of them?
To be continued….
The author is a Lusaka based economist.

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