Deluded thinking about happiness

The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that you never know if they are genuine.” — Abraham Lincoln

buddAnyone wishing to add credible weight to their article can be grateful for Einstein’s passing – it means you can make shit up, and put his name to it without provoking ire or litigation.


A common quotation attributed to Einstein begins “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.”, and is usually followed by someone’s mashup with another quote: “This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us...”. But the true letter as verified by a scanned image continued thus: “The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.” This was written to a US Chaplain who participated in the liberating of survivors from Nazi concentration camps.

We live in an era where the veracity of information is quite suspect. History can be sanitised and adapted for political purposes, and the virtual world supplants reality in many ways. Shops become eCommerce supply chains, identities become avatars. Maya means ‘illusion’, which gives an excuse to share a backing track by a friend of ours …. while you read. All the thought-provoking intro to this post was in order to stress the confusion between reality and dreams, so who better than the Father of Relativity? For all his brilliant intellect, Einstein was a compassionate being with a common touch. We’re deluded to think that we’re not connected – Donne instructed in 1624 “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent...”

Robert Butera, whose PhD on HIV/AIDS preceded many other studies on mindfulness and immune system breakdown, wrote wisely in ‘Meditation for your Life’: “The mind does not accept that every possession is changing, so we become mired in attachments to things remaining constant…. a secondary and more insidious type of thought generated by the desire for things is the fantasy or dream of having something that you do not yet own. Now the irony in this illusion is that ownership of material items is an impossibility in the first place“. In fact we’re possessed by possessions – they demand maintenance, storage, upgrading, and our partner’s acquiescence to tie-up of assets.

No better example is the yacht, the lifestyle dream when sold, but a millstone to its owner. The truism that a yachtie has two happy days – when it’s purchased and when it’s sold, is borne out by the majority of expensive vessels cluttering the marinas. You may randomly see a fleet participating in a race, but most boats don’t leave their berth. And skippers are always desperately seeking race crews who’ll tolerate wintry misery.

Watch these Nth & Sth hemisphere webcams to see how few vacancies appear on the weekend.

We don’t float alone, but are all tied to the same fates. And tides. Our connectedness remains, whether or not we think we can just sail away from it all.

Geoff and Carole Kirwood are partners in the Mindful Gap, and have found great contentment in sailing.

Author: Geoff regularly blogs and can be followed on as well as 

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