Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Happiness, potential

This blog seems to reflect my unfortunate personality: months of silence followed by ranting that no one understands. Even though I bang on about change, I’m really not sure anything has changed from the sad little person I was three years ago. Why did I come here? What did I achieve?

Instead I have pet theories about the most abstract things. Still I think understanding the abstract level can change the world. If you keep stepping back, eventually you’ll see the whole picture.

I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness and its discontents. Why is it the things we want the most can’t be pursued directly? Love is an example, happiness too. The ‘pursuit’ of happiness is really misleading.

Hunger for happiness in and of itself is what utopias are made of – and utopias always turn into dystopias. They are what Nietzche calls “the wretched contentment.”

Even people with the most simple dreams find, all the time, that happiness doesn’t lie at the end of their journey. The woman who has always wanted to be a housewife feels bored and dis-respected when she gets there, the person who pursues money and status eventually finds them empty. We are terrible at predicting what will make us happy.

If happiness was a solid object, which we are apt to think it is, like a gold bar, or a journey destination, we should be a lot better at predicting how to get it by now. It was the point of the whole of human progress.

But our failure so far just goes to show it’s totally wrong. What if happiness is only a byproduct of something else and has no substance of its own? Like a mist that retreats with the dawn, we can only ever experience it intermittently.

The problem is we are not really built for happiness. We have it the wrong way round. We don’t exist to experience nice emotions, emotions exist to pull us or push us towards things that help survival. They only point the way, like candy they’re awarded for good behaviour. Happiness is sweet but it’s shallow, and the time it’s in your mouth is short.

We are however built for the less glamorous task of integrating our potential. But this is really complex because the potential is completely open. If there’s one thing in common in all peoples it’s versatility and adaptability. As I said before our natures are really like Mutant of the X-Men. We are like machines with an inbuilt panel that can be re-programmed to make anything. That kind of power is on a whole different level to even the most powerful machine that only makes one thing.

Everywhere in nature, versatility has won over brute force. But it’s not obvious, it looks gentle and soft on the outside, it’s a secret weapon.

Integrating all its strands may be impossible, but the more you can include the more successful the individual, or culture, civilization. We weave our lives like a wide plait of multicoloured threads. Its patterns determine our direction. The smoother, wider, more inclusive the weaving the more comes back to us. But what this weaving means in practical terms is another post – or another 10 posts. It takes some figuring out.

Happiness is incidental to this process. It’s only a boomerang that you throw in one direction and hope it comes back from somewhere, you don’t know for sure. It’s only a possibility.

So my conclusion is: don’t pursue happiness. It sounds bleak but the message is not nihilistic. The message is that it’s natural to experience happiness only intermittently. Don’t sweat the lack of happiness, your task lies elsewhere. Your task is bigger than happiness, life would be too shallow if this candy was what we strived for.

It’s like my theory on meaninglessness. Everyone would be more relaxed if you knew it’s inevitable. The real, worthy object for your striving doesn’t lie in trying to destroy that feeling, it doesn’t lie in eliminating the lack of happiness. Instead we are meant to take the difficult path, that’s why the reward of happiness exists. And so, paradoxically, along the way happiness is likely to boomerang back to you – though that’s only a possibility.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The rich, older man

Yes, I know I haven’t posted in months. But I’ve been busy doing things worth posting about, working on a special report you could say.

I have somehow become an accidental gold digger, and my special report concludes thus: it seems that being a gold digger isn’t easy.

The rich, older man and young woman combination is such a cliché in this city and so widespread, it was just a matter of time. Here’s how I got drawn into it.

Two months ago I was introduced to the CEO of a private equity business. Let’s call him Mr.X. Many things about him didn’t make sense: why did he have the time to take me out to lunch? Why did he make so much effort to be charming? And why did he stay in touch? In my naivety I thought he just wanted sex. He flirted a lot and talked to our mutual friend about me. All my insecurities were activated. I thought I had found a mentor of sorts.

But through all the graciousness, he had the most intense stare. His eyes fixed on me with blue-gray steel. He said he was good at reading people, but I didn’t know what he was looking for, and what he had found in me.

Now I think maybe it’s this. Female journalists are supremely placed to meet rich, older men, and, for the sake of the job, to charm them. After years of doing this two or three times a week, you also become quite good at it. Worst of all normal people doing normal things begin to bore you.

You find ways to escalate experiences, to find the extremes.

After a period of ‘courtship’ he made his real move – he introduced me to his client, Mr.Y, an even richer, older man. This man had been the real object of his courtship for an investment of US$ 3 million. He also happened to go to the same school as me in London twenty years ago, and was divorced and lonely. Given his cold and fastidious character, an ordinary whore would have been too vulgar. He needed a high class escort without the escort label: i.e. a well educated, cultured, gold digger.

Yes, I’m the perfect fit – except for the motivation. I’m motivated not by money but by what? I don’t even know. Curiosity perhaps, validation. I was a welcoming present, an object.

I went on a date with Mr.Y – where he changed the time to fit his schedule, and changed the location to his building. On these dates the man gets it all his way, they’re not really interested in you. That was how he related to the whole world: when he says jump, everyone says how high.

I found all the gatherings of this circle to be sad, surreal affairs - a mishmash of oddly matched people who had nothing to say to each other, but who were still desparate to be there. Young, beautiful local women sat in silence like they didn’t exist while the men talked shop. Young guys hanging on to their every word, the lackeys, the groupies. A friend became one of them, a young man who was changing before my eyes from a sweet hearted kid.

But crazily enough I consider continuing. Perhaps because I’m used to self abuse. Or because the story isn’t finished yet. Curiosity always has me in its grip, and I’m compelled to open the blinds.

At the same time I walk away from innocence.