Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby
During a recent tour of the magnificent southern island of New Zealand, I came across a small village named Papatowai. In the heart of the village sits a caravan named “The Lost Gypsy”. It is run by a fine fellow by the name Blair, who seems to me to have found the key to happiness.
I have often argued that happiness is not to be found in material wealth and I have claimed that my own happiness is due, in part, to not desiring material possessions. One needs food, shelter, and friends, but beyond this, additional accumulation is unnecessary.
The Lost Gypsy lives a peaceful life. He tinkers with recycled material, turning them into curious works of art. As far as I can see, he has little need for material wealth and is content to make art and converse with passers by. It is a life of little stress.
People may argue that this is not a happy life because he has no money for the things we desire in these modern times, such as large televisions, sophisticated computers, big cars, and fashionable clothing. However, I think the desire for these luxuries steer us away from happiness. I shall present my meditation on this subject in syllogistic form:
P1. (premise) I believe that I need luxuries to attain happiness
P2. (premise) Because I believe I need luxuries to attain happiness, I am driven to obtain luxuries
P3. (premise) Because I am driven to obtain luxuries, I am upset when I don’t obtain luxuries
P4. (premise) Because I am driven to obtain luxuries, I am anxious to obtain luxuries
P5. (premise) A luxury is only a luxury until a greater luxury is available
P6. (premise) Because I am driven to obtain luxuries and because luxuries are only luxuries until a greater luxury is available, I am constantly pushed forward to acquire greater luxuries
P7. (premise) Because I am constantly pushed forward to acquire greater luxuries, I experience anxiety and disappointment with what I have
P8. (premise) If I am anxious to obtain luxuries, or if I am upset about not obtaining luxuries, or if I am disappointed with what I have, then I am not happy
C1. (conclusion) I am not happy
C2. (conclusion) My belief that I need luxuries to attain happiness is false
This argument does not tell us what we need to be happy. But if it is sound, it shows us that the pursuit of luxury gets in the way of happiness. As far as I can tell, The Lost Gypsy has shed the common belief that one needs luxuries to attain happiness, and thus he has removed an impediment to happiness which has allowed him to focus on other things. These have resulted in his happiness.
Still, as a closing thought, I wonder if the constant desire to find recycled material to create new art works may get in the way of true happiness for the gypsy.