I wasn’t exactly sure how my bmag article on The Meaning of Life by Spencer J. Howson aged 17 ¾ would go down when I included extracts in my last column. I’m pleased to report the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
My favourite from The Meaning of Life was from Julia Baker, a snake-catcher on Brisbane’s northside, who tells me she is about to start crowd-funding a TV show about her reptile-wrangling adventures.
Julia wrote: “Wow!! That is very impressive for a 17 year old! It took me over 40 years to realise that by doing things that make ourselves happy first, we are then naturally driven as humans to share that happiness and help create it in others. A win/win situation. Brilliantly written Spencer!
“The reason for working on and wanting this TV series so badly it hurts is my vision for what I want to do after it. I want to go into schools and speak in front of people that need an inspiration from someone that came from nothing, was pretty much labelled stupid, and show them how to set goals, dream big and achieve!”
You can count on some cash from me, Julia! Keep an eye on www.facebook.com/snakesheila.
Here’s my article in case you missed it:
The meaning of life:
I’m about to quote a very private essay I wrote when I was 17. I recorded the words into a micro-cassette recorder whilst lying in bed, then transcribed and finessed my late-night philosophising into a written document to be packed away in a box and not revisited until later in life.
This is the first time since then – since February 3rd 1990 – that I’ve looked at these three typed and dot-matrix-printed pages yet I have often thought about what I wrote and how I still agree with 17-year-old me. The essay is entitled – cue the dramatic music – “The Meaning of Life”.
What inspired me to share this will you now was a blackboard outside a clothing shop in Toowong. On the board were the words: “Do more of what makes YOU happy”.
It stopped me in my tracks. On the surface, it might seem an egotistical approach to life. But I believe much good can and does come from people pleasing themselves.
Seventeen-year-old Spencer takes up the story: “While we cannot answer why we are here, we can explain why we do the things we do.
“Having resigned to the fact that we are here, and that we are only here for a short time, humans all attempt to make the most of that time. It is my firm belief that every human being seeks pleasure as the number one lifetime goal.
“No-one ever does anything that does not bring pleasure or prevent displeasure. Every single human action has pleasure as its goal. Even the hero who risks his life to save a child from a burning house does so to prevent the possible displeasure he would otherwise feel for not trying.
“Given there is no reason, no why, no explanation for us being here, why do people breed more people? Again, for the pleasure. The pleasure of parenting, the pleasure of resuscitating the marriage, or the pleasure of security and care in the senior years”.
At this point, the essay really does start to sound like it was a written by a wide-eyed innocent 17-year-old boy, but I said I would share it with you so here goes:
“The ultimate pleasures, according to the Krishna movement, are eating and sex. You can only eat so much before you become ill, and even sex has its limits.” How funny.
I’ll save you several paragraphs and jump to the conclusion: “Now we are coming closer to the meaning of life. Lifestyle, it would appear, is a conscious attempt to make the most of a limited lifetime. Whilst there is no reason for life, there is a reason for lifestyle.” It goes on (and on and on) but you get the idea.
Over the years, whenever I’ve heard about people doing great deeds, I’ve found myself asking the question: are they getting pleasure from this? Invariably, yes, they are. And it’s not a bad thing. Happiness is not a dirty word.
Charity workers, from Meals on Wheels kitchens in Brisbane to orphanages in third world countries, are all harnessing their own desire for happiness and using it to help others. Even those working within church organisations who would say they are serving God are also making themselves happier in the process.
As that blackboard said, “Do more of what makes YOU happy”.
To take it one step further, I would just say that if you can find a way of helping others that makes you happy, then you’ve hit the jackpot!