Koon Yew Yin 12 Feb 2021
I have decided to write this topic because I am very depressed by my investment in Supermax which has been dropping in the last 4 months for no logical reason. Moreover, I am sad because many of my followers are also affected financially.
Today is Chinese New Year, a very auspicious day. When a Chinese meets another Chinese, they wish each other “Gong Xi Fa Cai” which literally means wish you get rich. Unfortunately, most Chinese consider money is more important than happiness. They forget our ultimate aim in life is happiness. You must bear in mind that even without much money you still can be happy. The key to happiness is contentment; always count your blessings. In fact, you need very little money to live. How much can you eat? How big a house or a condo do you really need?
Every morning when I wake up, I have 2 decisions to make- to be happy or sad. I always choose to be happy. To be happy does not cost any money. Our human mind is so powerful that if you believe in something, you will be able to find enough reason to justify your belief. If you want to be happy you will count all your blessings. If you want to be sad you can always find reasons to feel sad. But you must remember, just worry cannot change the situation. It can only make you feel worse. If you have a problem, try to find a solution. If the problem cannot be resolved, leave it because time will solve it sooner or later.
I have learned many bitter lessons about human behaviour. Affection of parents for children and of children for parents is capable of being one of the greatest sources of happiness. But in fact, at the present day, the relations of parents and children are, in many cases, a source of unhappiness to both parties, and almost all the cases a source of unhappiness to at least one of the two parties.
I have an old friend of more than 50 years. Two members of his family have been quarrelling for many years. I am aware that it is impossible to help them resolve their differences. But I tried in vain because human emotion is involved. Moreover, one of them insists that she is right all the time. As I said before, one can always find reasons to justify one’s belief.
This reminds me of an old Chinese saying, 清官难断家务事(Qīnɡɡuān nán duàn jiāwùshì.) laterally it means a fair judge cannot resolve a family dispute.
Many years ago, I read “The Conquest of Happiness” by Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher. It is a very difficult book to read because there are too many words on every page that I don’t know. However, I will try to summarise it for you.
First you must know what causes unhappiness and what causes happiness.
The Causes of Unhappiness
Most unhappy people have so many worries about work, children wife and family. It appears unbearable and inescapable. I believe this unhappiness to be largely due to mistaken views of the world, mistaken ethics, mistaken habits of life, leading to the destruction of that natural zest and appetite for possible things upon which all happiness ultimately depends.
Every day, everyone is competing with one another for something. You cannot be happy if you keep fighting for success. Success can only be one ingredient in happiness, and is too dearly purchased if all other ingredients have been sacrificed to obtain it.
Very often we are unhappy and bored because we have nothing to do. We have come to associate boredom with unhappiness and excitement with happiness, but Russell argues that boredom and excitement form a separate axis entirely, having little relationship with happiness. “Running away from enemies who are trying to take one’s life is, I imagine, unpleasant, but certainly not boring. … The opposite of boredom, in a word, is not pleasure, but excitement. The confusion of excitement and happiness, and the flight from boredom that it entails, is a chief cause of unhappiness. The cure is to teach oneself to endure boredom without running from it.
4. Boredom and Excitement
We have come to associate boredom with unhappiness and excitement with happiness, but Russell argues that boredom and excitement form a separate axis entirely, having little relationship with happiness. Running away from enemies who are trying to take one’s life is, I imagine, unpleasant, but certainly not boring. The opposite of boredom, in a word, is not pleasure, but excitement. The confusion of excitement and happiness, and the flight from boredom that it entails, is a chief cause of unhappiness. The cure is to teach oneself to endure boredom without running from it.
This chapter is actually about worry. Russell believes that such physical fatigue as people feel in the industrialized world is mostly healthy, and that only “nervous fatigue”, caused largely by worry, is really destructive to happiness. Russell believes most worry could be avoided by learning good thinking habits, by refusing to over-estimate the significance of possible failures, by taking a larger perspective, and by facing fears squarely.
If you work hard you will be successful soon or later. Even if you have achieved success, you cannot be happy if you always compare yourself with someone whom you imagine, perhaps quite falsely, to be more fortunate than yourself. You cannot therefore get away from envy by means of success alone. You can get away from envy by enjoying the pleasures that come your way, by doing the work that you have to do, and by avoiding comparisons.
7. The Sense of Sin
According to the Catholic teaching, premarital sex is forbitten. Traditional religion has saddled us with an ascetic moral code that will make us unhappy if we keep it by denying us joy in life and also if we break it by causing us guilt. The only solution is to root this moral code out of our unconscious, and replace it with a code less inimical to human happiness.
8. Persecution Mania
This is probably the most amusing chapter of the book. The purpose in this chapter is to suggest some general reflections by means of which each individual can detect in himself the elements of persecution mania from which almost everybody suffers in a greater or less degree. If you can detect them you can eliminate them. This is an important part of the conquest of happiness, since it is quite impossible to be happy if we feel that everybody ill-treats us.
9. Fear of Public Opinion
Very few people can be happy unless on the whole their way of life and their outlook on the world is approved by those with whom they have social relations, and more especially by those with whom they live. Fortunately, the modern world gives us some choice about where we live and who our friends will be.
The Causes of Happiness
In general, the second half of Conquest is not as impressive as the first. Not only is this section shorter than the first, but Russell has more of a tendency to ramble. These rambles can be entertaining, but they are usually not very informative. I am left with the impression that the causes of happiness remain mysterious to Russell. Once the obstacles to happiness are removed, happiness just happens — somehow.
10. Is Happiness Still Possible?
Fundamental happiness depends more than anything else upon what may be called a friendly interest in persons and things. The kind of interest in persons that makes for happiness is the kind that likes to observe people and finds pleasure in their individual traits, that wishes to afford scope for the interests and pleasures of those with whom it is brought into contact without desiring to acquire power over them or to secure their enthusiastic admiration. The person whose attitude towards others is genuinely of this kind will be a source of happiness and a recipient of reciprocal kindness. … To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest of all sources of personal happiness.
Zest is the x-factor that causes us to be interested in life. Russell has little to say about what zest is or how to obtain it. He does argue against those who would devalue zest by claiming that it is a mark of superior taste not to be interested in vulgar or lowbrow subjects. All disenchantment is to me a malady which … is to be cured as soon as possible, not to be regarded as a higher form of wisdom. Suppose one man likes strawberries and another does not; in what respect is the latter superior? There is no abstract and impersonal proof that strawberries are good or that they are not good. To the man who likes them they are good, to the man who dislikes them they are not. But the man who likes them has a pleasure which the other does not have; to that extent his life is more enjoyable and he is better adapted to the world in which both must live.
One of the chief causes of lack of zest is the feeling that one is unloved, whereas conversely the feeling of being loved promotes zest more than anything else does. Unfortunately, considering the importance of affection to happiness, this chapter is almost completely descriptive rather than prescriptive. Russell describes the types of affection and evaluates their effects, but gives little advice about how to either give or get higher quality affection.
13. The Family
I am 88 years old and in my life time I have learned many bitter lessons. Of all the institutions that have come down to us from the past none is in the present day so disorganized and derailed as the family. Affection of parents for children and of children for parents is capable of being one of the greatest sources of happiness. But in fact, at the present day, the relations of parents and children are, in many cases, a source of unhappiness to both parties, and almost all the cases a source of unhappiness to at least one of the two parties.
This failure of the family to provide the fundamental satisfactions which in principle it is capable of yielding is one of the most deep-seated causes of the discontent which is prevalent in our age.
Whether work should be placed among the causes of happiness or the causes of unhappiness may perhaps be regarded as a doubtful question. Russell places it among the causes of happiness for a number of reasons:
1. It passes time.
2. It provides an opportunity for success.
3. The work itself may be interesting.
15. Impersonal Interests
Certain interests are central to a person’s conception of his/her life: career, family, and so forth. In this chapter Russell asserts the value of having interests that are not central, that have no effect on the major issues of life. Such hobbies and pastimes serve two purposes: (1) They provide an escape from larger worries, and distract the conscious mind so that the unconscious can work productively toward a solution. (2) They provide a reserve pool of interest in life, so that if disaster or a series of disasters destroy the pillars that support our central interests, we will have the possibility of growing new central interests.
16. Effort and Resignation
What Russell calls resignation is more popularly referred to these days as acceptance. The question discussed in this chapter is basically: Should we try to change the world or accept it the way it is? Russell takes a middle position, roughly equivalent to the Serenity Prayer.
17. The Happy Man
In the final chapter Russell comes back to his main point: attention should be focused outward, not inward. It is not the nature of most men to be happy in a prison, and the passions which shut us up in ourselves constitute one of the worst kinds of prisons. Among such passions some of the commonest are fear, envy, the sense of sin, self-pity and self-admiration. In all these our desires are centred upon ourselves: there is no genuine interest in the outer world, but only a concern lest it should in some way injure us or fail to feed our ego.