Sunday, March 03, 2013

Oh, misquoted facebook quotes

This one came up today: "If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not people or things. Albert Einstein"

It just didn't ring true to me, although it's an appealing idea. I looked it up--it can't be proven Einstein said it. Wikiquotes attributes it to him, but in the "Attributed from memory and posthumous publications" section, and they said there are two variants. The above is neither, but is close to "If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or objects."

I can agree that tying your life to things is not likely to make you happy.

But I don't agree with not tying your life to people. If the purpose of the gospel is to guide us to true happiness ("eternal bliss" as Alma says), and God has asked us not only to interact with people, but to eternally seal our lives to another person, then I would assume that tying yourself to people is supposed to make you happy. In fact, the structure of the church has us thoroughly involved with people all the time--church is about people, home and visiting teaching are about people, missionary work is about people, family is about people. Everything we do in church is designed to tie us to God and to tie us to other people.

I think perhaps what Einstein was observing is that we don't really have control over other people. They can make us intensely miserable, they can be fickle and unreliable, they can go from friend to foe in a single misunderstanding. But, it looks like he's saying, we do have control over our own actions in pursuit of a goal, and that's what makes us happy. But it's an illusion that we have control over our goals and whether we accomplish them or not. We like to FEEL like we have that power, that we are in control of our actions and attitudes and therefore the outcomes. It seems to be the big philosophy of a lot of life coaches and business coaches.  Really, though, you can set a goal and work your life out for it, and it can still not happen. Or we can set goals that in our woefully short-sighted inexperience are really stupid goals that won't satisfy us in the long run. Again, a recipe for a wasted life.

Work does make me happy. And working toward an end makes me happy. I've found over and over in my life that if I feel down or discouraged or depressed, the answer is to work--it almost doesn't matter on what. I can do the dishes or write a novel or clean a room or plant a garden or fix a car or organize a closet or whatever work I can get my hands into. The very act of working makes me happy. And working towards a goal does make me happy--as long as it's a goal that can be accomplished. I hate working toward a spotless house, for example, because as long as we eat and wear clothes, it can never be truly done because there is always another load of laundry and another sink of dishes coming any minute.  I do that work because it makes me happy to work, not for a goal. Actually, I think in general for me it's the work that makes me happy, not accomplishing a goal. I do like to finish projects, but then I want to get right on to another.

I guess that's another reason this quote is totally not applicable to me. I don't care much about goals for their own sake. I care about working toward an end, about working in general, about living righteously, but having an endpoint written down has never really  motivated me. I guess it does other people. Just not me. Maybe it's a question of semantics, or maybe it's a question of what is personally satisfying? I know some people are highly motivated by having an endpoint to look toward and by accomplishing, arriving, and checking off. Not me--I am perhaps even happier to hike on a deer trail, which has no end and no destination, just to see where it goes, than I am to hike to a spot, get there, say I did it, and come back. It gives me no satisfaction to check off items on a list because I'm always adding items to the list. It's an exercise in futility for me. List is full? All checked off? Throw it away and get a new paper, quick. I have more things to do!

So, even though I often agree with Einstein's wisdom, this is one case where it just doesn't sit well with me. It doesn't ring true. I agree about the things--tying your life to things seems really foolish.  But when I'm an old, old lady, I want to be surrounded by people who love me, not proof that I have accomplished my goals. So obviously I want to tie my life to people--that's the kind of life I want, with all its ups and downs, and that's what makes me happy. The lows from people may be lower, but the highs are so much higher, and so much more permanent.  After we die, the things get left behind. Many of the things we can accomplish do, too. But the relationships we have with people go with us, and our families, if we are sealed in the temple, remain intact. That's where I choose to tie my life. And it does make me happy.

1 comment:

Zi Gnes said...

I feel so enlightened. Thank you for making my day. I agree with you. I love my friends. I love going to church. I love talking to the missionaries. I choose to tie my life to people especially to the ones I love most, my family. :)