Are you happy?
Seriously ask yourself that question. I don't mean do you like your
job and the car you drive, I mean deep down at the basic level of
life, are you really happy? It's a heavy question, and perhaps one
that most of us never really ask ourselves because we are probably
too busy or maybe even too afraid?
It struck me the other day that as happy as I am in life, I'm in
danger of missing the point.
You see I am becoming more and more busy with work, a fact
that carries the bonus of more money and therefore
more opportunity to fill my life with the things money can buy.
Recently I've bought a laptop computer, a cool new flat screen
Apple computer, new digital phones for my studio, a new DVD player,
and just the other day a new mobile phone. Loads of stuff that a
few years ago would have been beyond my financial reach.
The benefits of having a little more money are noticeable and of
course enjoyable too. But this afternoon as I sat in a car at Caldy
watching the sun set over the Welsh Mountains and the River Dee,
it dawned on me that this was the first time in a very long time
that I had done this.
I used to watch the sunset across the Irish Sea or the River Dee
on a regular basis, sometimes once or twice a week. Back then I lived
in Birkenhead, a place not readily blessed with natural charm or
beauty. A place that I took every opportunity to escape from in order
to bring some form of balance to the chaotic and hectic cruelness
that seemed to plague the town I never once called home.
Back then I aspired to make my escape from Park Road South, to get
to a point where I could afford to do my grocery shopping somewhere
other than Netto or KwikSave. As much fun as it was living in a bedsit
in the rough and tumble end of town, I wanted to graduate to a better
standard of living, and in 1999 I did just that.
I moved away from
apartment, left my old neighbors and my greedy good for nothing
landlord for a new place in a far less turbulent neighborhood.
This was the
new start I wanted, the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
It will be four years this week since I left Birkenhead, and if
you asked me to take stock of what I have gained I think I could
reel off an impressive list of spoils. I've got cable TV, a car that doesn't
to be followed everywhere by a tow truck and a reasonably successful
business and all kinds of gadgets and goodies you would expect
to find in any modern home. I'm doing fine thank you very much.
But am I happy?
I thought I was, in fact I suppose I am really, but I'm hit by
this sudden pang of uncertainty. Like I said, that sunset I saw this evening
was the first one I've sat and watched in ages. I simply can't
the last time I specifically took the time to watch a sunset.
I didn't have a camera, which at first annoyed me, but on reflection
I think it purified the moment somehow. I'd also forgotten my mobile
phone and was therefore disconnected from my life, unreachable
for a while. So I sat there in the car and without the assistance of
a digital device of any kind I watched the sun set behind the Welsh
Mountains, its reflection shimmer on the mouth of the River Dee,
listening not to the radio but instead to the distant sound of
the waves against the shore.
We all know of course that happiness can not be bought at a price,
and yet here I am nearly falling into what I see as an illusionary
state of happiness. The state where we fill our lives with the
spoils of technology and the trimmings of good fortune. Where we
cease to wonder at the wider world and instead look with blinkered
vision at the world directly in front of us.
I don't want my life to be full of TV dinners and last minute getaways
grabbed in haste from some characterless dot com. I don't want
to be driven by debt or mauled by marketing. I want to be able
to see clearly, to see beauty, find happiness without a strap line
or price tag. I want to be human, I accept that I am a number
but I also want to be able to be more than that when I need to
be. I don't want to get to the point where my life is so full of
will make me happy that I lose sight of what it is that makes me
Sometimes I think we have a tendency to over complicate the simple
things for no better reason other than we can. We're all driven
by a thirst for more, but we're not entirely sure what it is we actually
want more of. I don't want to lose simplicity. I'd rather have
wreck of a car and go somewhere beautiful rather than a beautiful
car and go nowhere.
I suppose am happy really, but I still want more. A DVD player,
new digital video camera, cool laptop or cable TV isn't doing anything
other than anesthetizing me into becoming a stay-at-home suburban
lab rat. I don't want to be spoon fed my experiences, I am capable
of more than just consuming.
I guess that sunset just gave me a sudden and unexpected reality
check. Snapping me back to the truth that there's more to life
than what we can see, buy or ever understand.
I don't need a golden carriage to take me to my grave when a bridge
of stars will do.