Are you happy?

May 20, 2009

I worked in the garden yesterday. For about three hours I dug in the dirt, planted flowers, arranged rocks, spread wood chips. I had my gloves on at first but I soon took them off. They made my hands uncomfortable, hot and sweaty.  I dug in the moist, rich, heavy soil with my bare hands, the coolness, the rough texture of it felt wonderfully on my skin. Soon I was covered in dirt, with my hands black and dark smudges on my arms and face, and I was happy. Decidedly, simply and absolutely happy. I didn’t think much of anything, my mind was not involved in the movements of my body, in the sensations on my skin. And when I was done I looked at my hands realizing that my nails will be filthy for days, and I didn’t care. Later that day I thought about a month I spent at the coast of Poland one summer. I was a college student then, my friend and I spent our summer vacation on the beach selling newspapers, cigarets and candies.  We lived in a tiny little tent set up on a camping ground. We woke up every morning at 7am, took shower, cooked breakfast on a propane burner, went to collect our newspaper stand and rolled it to the beach. At 7pm we rolled it back to the storage, went back to our tent, cooked dinner on the little burner and then went out for a glorious night of beer, ice cream and hanging out with friends. We did this every day, for a month.  It was not how our life looked like, usually. As psychology students we spent our days on thinking, reading, learning. We considered theories, discussed ideas, debated concepts. We were smart, well read, intellectual. It was our job, it was what we were being train to do: consider, understand, describe, draw conclusions, formulate ideas, theories, concepts.  Intellect was the mark of status among people I knew. Quickness of understanding, of argument, was admired and respected.  The world we lived in, my friend and I, was the world of ambition and achievement. We had great plans for the future, for the academic laurels, degrees we were going to get, programs we were going to graduate from, private practices, great breakthroughs in psychotherapy, many books published. All that was left behind during the month at the coast.  I remember realizing even then, years before I begun any kind of spiritual practice and gained any access to an understanding of myself, I remember realizing that I stopped thinking. I remember walking home, back to the camping ground, one evening and realizing that my friend and I hadn’t once talked about anything more significant that what we’ll cook for dinner and whom we will hang out with that night. I remember realizing that life became simple, that I became simple. Theories, concepts, ideas and ambitions were gone and I was happy. Really, really happy. I had a place to sleep, I had food, there was always enough money for ice cream and beer. I met people every day and spent wonderful time with them every night. I had all I could ask for, I was absolutely content.  I had all I needed. I knew that because I felt no need of anything at all, there was nothing missing.  I felt at home. Sometime during that month the small town at the coast became my home. The tent was my home. I was heartbroken when the time came to leave. Because I was really happy there. Today my husband and I talked about a new search engine. An engine that doesn’t simply match keywords to content on web pages but actually understands concepts, comprehends the meaning of a question and gives a logical and adequate answer. “Such a giant step towards creating the artificial inteligence” mused my husband, “a computer that is as intelligent as a human mind, eventually more intelligent than a human mind”. “Yes” I said “but will it be happy?”

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