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Happiness not all about possessions

All the creatures on earth spend their lives foraging for food — unless they are domestically kept and fed — sleep, and breed in season.

Only humans have the capacity to worry or plan for tomorrow, to understand their situation, and govern their activities beyond the few mentioned above. Yes, squirrels and such lay up stores for the winter, but it is more of an instinctual thing than an active, conscious plan such as a human would have. No creature worries about dying, or whether there is a life hereafter, or who will be elected as our next president.

​The result of our unique understanding of our lives is our curiosity, and the resulting enlightenments it produces, which leads us in many directions, not the least of which is that we seem to have an instinct to aspire.

Aspire to what? It all depends on how we see our world, and that is as varied as our faces. Show me a person who has no aspirations, and I’ll show you a person in a thoughtless coma.

​The aspirations of the scientific people to understand the world has led us to many discoveries that have enriched our lives in overcoming many of the mundane activities that took up a lot of our active time. When I think of the difference in how I do my laundry and how my mother did hers just 75 years ago, I am flabbergasted at the changes.

​The next frontier that should capture our imaginations for the betterment of everyone is not the ocean depths or outer space, but the inner spaces of our thinking processes and how our own health and welfare is affected by our thinking processes. Let’s face it, our bodily functions are all controlled by our brains, whether subconsciously or consciously. Yet we pay little attention to the cultivation, weeding processes, and care and feeding of our brains. A recent motto of a TV promotion stated that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” That is certainly true, but we do waste them.

​I married a young woman who was a widow with three little boys aged 4, 5 and 6. I was fresh out of the Army in a new job at a beginner’s wages. We had an economical week-long vacation at a small cottage on Lake Chautauqua. My wife’s father, who was an avid fisherman, let us take his outboard motor with us to possibly enhance our lake adventure.

​Out on the lake one day we ran out of gas. I had to row to a nearby shore and walk back to our cabin for the gas can, while my wife waited with the boat. In my trip, I passed by a large beautiful home on the shore of the lake. It had a four-car garage attached to the side of the elegant appearing lakeside mansion. As I passed by I could hear a distraught woman screaming her displeasures at someone. I couldn’t help but reflect on the idyllic happiness of my wife and I with little of material wealth, and the hysterical rancor of some woman who lived in the lap of luxury. It was like I got my brain branded on the fickle fates of money. We were fortunate to have our economic fortunes improve from thereon, although never to the point where my wife had the screaming he-be-gee-bee’s from her petty frustrations with a pea under her mattress.

​My point is that with all of our vast improvements to control our environs, we still have little understanding of how to deal with our mutual search for happiness. We cannot all be movie stars, star quarterbacks or corporate CEOs.

Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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