While sitting on the plane the other day I read an article about people and happiness. Apparently we are all in search of happiness, and we all believe that there is something-- a new house, a new hairdo, a better mate -- that will make us truly happy.
But the author believes that the human brain just doesn't work like that. We are perpetually unhappy he says. His example? Hunger. If you send a person grocery shopping after they have just eaten a big, and satisfying meal they won't buy enough food. They are so satisfied, they vastly underestimate when they will get hungry again and what they'll want. This explains why I should never make lunch to take with me to work immediately after eating breakfast (or dinner for that matter). I'll always pick wrong, serve myself less rather than more, and end up hungry at one in the afternoon. This is also why as soon as we get what we want, we just decide we want more. We never think past the point of immediate gratification and complete satisfaction.
But is this always true, and if so, is it a bad thing? Sure utter consumption is terrible. And in many circles these days it is considered hip to be minimal. There are whole books devoted to simplifying your life.
But for me, for my world -- what is best? I just returned from vacation. Usually this is a time when the simplification urge really kicks in. I've just seen new things and met new people. I come back to a world that seems tired and I decide that less is more, especially if more means more travel, more new sights and sounds.
But this time it was different. I came back, yes, and the world did seem tired. My apartment was dark and the tub needed to be scrubbed. My commute took longer than I remembered, which is impressive because I know it takes a long time.
All of a sudden I wanted less commute, more walking to work, more sunlight and air and rooms in my house. I craved space and bookshelves and cupboards. Not a mansion, nothing excessive, just more room for me.
Happiness, apparently is a balancing act. It is knowing when you have enough and need to appreciate it more, and when a slight tweak here and there might really make you happier. I will think about these things this weekend but not when I am too full or too empty. I will search for that time, that moment when I am really me. In that instant I will look around and see. More? Less? Come again?