Over the past decade, an abundance of psychology research has shown that experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions.
Essentially, when you can’t live in a moment, they say, it’s best to live in anticipation of an experience. Experiential purchases like trips, concerts, movies, et cetera, tend to trump material purchases because the utility of buying anything really starts accruing before you buy it.
Waiting for an experience apparently elicits more happiness and excitement than waiting for a material good (and more “pleasantness” too—an eerie metric). By contrast, waiting for a possession is more likely fraught with impatience than anticipation.
A 8 year-old friend of junior pixels recently told him at school that our family doesn’t have many toys because we go on holidays all the time. I initially didn’t know what to think when I heard him recount this, but I am since proud of that fact.
“There are lots of things you could probably do to improve your life. You could make more money, for instance, or travel more, or write more, or be a better friend, or get one of those vacuum cleaners that cleans your house while you’re out throwing your head back laughing at after-work cocktails in a nicely ironed shirt, the sleeve of which you hitch up when your expensive watch reminds you to circulate so you can get home in time to do all the right things to be perfect again the next day.
On the other hand, you could just do this: go for a walk. Nothing quite like a nice walk to really turn things around. Okay, alright, it’s not going to fix everything. It might not fix anything. And okay, alright, if you’re crook or you can’t walk or are indisposed or it’s the middle of the night, it doesn’t even need to be an actual walk. Do the next best thing. Go to the window and look out of it.”
~ Lorin Clarke, Walk the Walk, The Big Issue #543
“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
~ Tim Kreider: The ‘Busy’ Trap via What One Company Learned from Forcing Employees to Use Their Vacation Time
“Many people – and not a few companies – like to think that they can somehow stretch the cognitive limits of their minds, that doings lots of Sudoku or using programs like Brain Trainer will somehow enlarge their capacity. They’re out of luck. The only exercise that seems to nurture, or at least protect our brains is aerobic exercise. Yoga, toning and stretching may make you feel good but, in fMRI scans, only aerobic exercise seemed to have a visibly positive impact on the brain.”
~ Margaret Heffernan – Wilful Blindness
Acknowledging death graces us with a sense of perspective: it reminds us that we only have a finite number of breaths; it makes us ask ourselves ‘How will I feel when I get to the end of my life having done/without having done this?’
— Anne Karpf – How to Age
How good is it when the moon is amazing and you can’t even photograph it because when you try with your phone camera the glorious miracle that is the moon looks like it could be a dirty street light or something, and there’s nobody you can tell and you just have to look at the moon and think “it’s just me and you kid, and you’re blowing my mind”.
And you know that lots of people, all around the world, are looking at the same moon and you know their lives are full of different things and some of them are sad things and some of them are happy things and some of them are old faces peering up and some of them are young faces peering up and you might one day meet some of those faces. In fact they might even change your life forever, but it’s statistically unlikely that you will ever know even the smallest percentage of them, and if you ever do, you’ll never know. But maybe your phone camera is better than mine.
~ Lorin Clarke – The Big Issue #542
Lorin is fast becoming my favourite columnist.
“You’re supposed to read this cartoon, and, being a sophisticated person, say, “Ah! What does this fish know? You know, nothing is possible in this fishbowl.” Impoverished imagination, a myopic view of the world — and that’s the way I read it at first. The more I thought about it, however, the more I came to the view that this fish knows something. Because the truth of the matter is that if you shatter the fishbowl so that everything is possible, you don’t have freedom. You have paralysis. If you shatter this fishbowl so that everything is possible, you decrease satisfaction. You increase paralysis, and you decrease satisfaction.
Everybody needs a fishbowl. This one is almost certainly too limited — perhaps even for the fish, certainly for us. But the absence of some metaphorical fishbowl is a recipe for misery, and, I suspect, disaster.”
~ The closing to Barry Schwartz’s TED talk on the paradox of choice
I get paralysed by endless choice.
We’re upgrading our car at the moment, out of necessity, and limiting ourselves to wagon models meant there were a lot less choices (since everything is SUV) which made it easier to choose.
Same goes for renting a house. We’re satisfied as renting provides both financial and physical constraints to what we can spend and do to our place. We can’t spend more on the house than our rent, and we can’t do anything we want to the house, there are limits, and we like those constraints: we feel free.
Ash is scared to walk out those doors. Rehab is one thing, but the real world is full of triggers.
There are loads in the house where he’ll be living, where there are still holes in the walls from his fists.
“But now every hole I’m patching up, it’s patching up an old scar.”
He believes in AA’s 12 steps.
“I’m not one to believe in too many things, but these steps have actually given me a pathway. Instead of going right, I’m going straight. Before it was just like a figure eight, I just kept going around and I always kept coming back to the same point, which was daunting.
“I’d seen psychiatrists, psychologists and all that, but until I came in here and saw things clearly, it was very scary, very scary. I was only in survival mode, I was just getting by. I wasn’t living week by week, I was living day by day.”
Now, too, sobriety will be a daily proposition.
“I don’t think I’ve felt like this for a long, long time. I’m happy but scared at the same time, but I know we’ve got a brighter future. I’ve just got to keep the faith, as my nan would say. I’m doing it for my kids just as much as I’m doing it for myself.”
A well written insight into alcoholism and rehab for addicts; well worth reading.
“One of the strange laws of the contemplative life, is that in it you do not sit down and solve problems: you bear with them until somehow they solve themselves. Or until life solves them for you”
Thomas Merton, via The Art of Stillness by Pico Lyer
I love using walking in natures as a method to contemplate problems – and it works.
In the children’s hospital recently, there was a man in a suit with a straight back and pointy shoes rushing to catch the lift. He was clutching a large stuffed meerkat. With their straight backs, big eyes and anxious expressions, he and the meerkat seemed related. He patted it absently in the lift, but caught himself doing it and stopped. One floor up, a kid with a prostethic leg got in. “I really like your meerkat,” he said after a minute. “Thank you,” said the man. “You’re welcome,” said the kid. “Nice eyes.” Public spaces can be okay.
Lorin Clarke in The Big Issue #535
“I’m not really a straight-cut potato, I have a couple of curves to me. I also had a few difficulties growing up, but it’s always about never giving up. I’ve always thought that if you look at the brighter side of life and focus on something positive; you might be able to work out the answer to a tough situation.
Thankfully I don’t have any addictions. I try to help people going through homelessness and addiction by giving them support. Sometimes reminding them to look on the light side will help them out. Once you care for people, the goodness that it brings out of them – the kindness and respect – shows. Once you show love it mirrors back, it’s pretty cool.”
Jacob S sells The Big Issue on the corner of Pitt and Bathurst Streets, Sydney
“WHEN WE start these things, in that gloriously alive state of vulnerability and excitement and hope, we can see so few pieces of the puzzle. We are primed to believe in the goodness of people, and truth as the default position. We want so much that we turn our heads away from the flaws and the oddities. Don’t look, we think, they do not matter. We are complicit. And once immersed in intimacy, extrication can seem impossible. This is the human condition in the effort of love.”
Stephanie Wood reveals a remarkable story about how she was tricked into love by an unknown man.