Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Dollar a Day Keeps Happiness Away

I am who I am, not simply because of serendipity, but because of several significant experiences that shaped my belief, attitude and value. This life-changing experience that I am about to describe has helped me to realize that the pursuit of wealth and achievements does not, and never, translate into a deep sense of satisfaction.

During my senior high school (back in 2005), I went for a "live-in" program: a three nights stay in a secluded undeveloped village. The main purpose of the program is to hone our leadership skills by letting our big-city lifestyle rubs with the villagers' frugal lifestyle. There, I discovered this insight:

For sure, those people are less fortunate than most of us in so many ways; fewer money and possession, smaller chances and opportunities to earn big bucks, and lesser abilities and skills to be successful. Ironically, they have one thing that is missing in most of us: happiness.

Isn't that what matter the most? People climb the corporate ladder in hope of finding happiness at the top. People work around the clock to make sure their good performances will earn them a raise. Students work their head off to get into that billions dollar company. People do all such of things in the name of happiness.

Research has shown that the otherwise is correct and my experience confirmed it. Villagers are happier, firstly because they don't have to do things which actually make them unhappy. Isn't it an irony? In the process of pursuing happiness, we sacrifice happiness: family, friends, and health. I've heard many examples revolving around one similar pattern: loving husband putting countless hours to earn more income for his family. Halfway down the road, tension rises, house becomes cold, smiles become artificial, and relationship becomes sour.

Secondly, money never equals to happiness. Even if you manage to get rich without having to work your way up, true happiness is still out of reach. Villagers are happier living in a small house, working in a farm, and eating a meager meal.


Because they found the key to unlock the door to happiness: deep and meaningful relationships. Family sat together on the asphalt floor to enjoy their dinner. Father and son exchanged stories, mother and daughter laughed cheerfully. The conversation was seasoned with love. The atmosphere was so warm, so close, and so human. Neighbors came over for a late-night conversation over a cup of tea. Thousand stars joined in the conversation silently, and the gentle breeze spread the happiness around. A faint voice whispering inside me, "These uneducated and inconspicuous people have found it!!"

Simply stated, having less actually draws people closer. They are happier because they have less things to focus on: No worry about job security or stock market, no grudge when the discount ends, no temptation to buy new gadget etc. They simply focus on what they have: friends.

It appeals to humans' most basic nature, the need for others. Unfortunately, the pursuit of wealth often times deprives and desensitizes us from that most primal nature. Thus, it is good to strip our materialistic attributes off, and see our humanity in its naked form. Tell me if you see a pathetic and unhappy human. I saw it, thanks to the villagers.


Joe said...

Excellent post!

Angie said...

that's really awesome insight! Thank you for sharing that and your story about the villager's life. yeah, i can relate to how visiting neighbors to have a talk can be really fulfilling since i start doing it here in the states

Gerry C Joeng said...

Thank you. same here with ministry house. hanging out together in the living room actually brighten my mood after a long tiring day at school.