At some point some of our ancestors figured that saving for tomorrow some of today’s bounty might increase the chances of survival for those who consistently practiced the habit.
Probably this happened in the temperate regions, where’s a marked difference between seasons and where the cool winters make it easier to store food.
And this is how thrift has become a commendable behavior.
Flash forward to the Enlightenment.
Drawing heavily from the Christian tradition prevalent in that cultural area – ‘God made Man in His own likeness’ – the ‘enlightened’ thinkers of the era determined that ‘Men were (created) equal’ – since all of them bore a certain likeness to the same standard.
Hence they must enjoy equal rights too. Including the right of pursuing happiness.
Go ahead. Click that link and read all about it. The guy writes a lot better than I’ll ever be able to. He even has an PhD on the subject.
The only problem is that he’s got it upside down. Using logic as a flash light to flush out happiness is like raping a woman in order to help her experience an orgasm.
But there’s another way to get there.
Csickszentmihalyi, who also has an PhD in psychology, noticed that people are a lot more likely to experience happiness by doing things and enjoying the results of their work than when trying to reach happiness ‘directly’. Even if he still uses the same term, “pursuit of happiness“, his approach is completely different from the one I mentioned first.
In this second scenario, happiness is no longer a goal per se but simply an indication that we are on the right track.
I simply don’t know.
I started with what our ancestors figured out. Imagine, for a moment, what those guys felt when a handful of them were gathered around a fire inside a cave, in the middle of February, munching on some fried meat that had been ‘preserved’ sometime in the autumn, specially when the north-easterly winds were howling outside. Was it happiness?
Again, I don’t know.
But please consider this: Did those guys stash wood, smoke hams and gather berries all autumn so that they might enjoy some moments of happiness in February or they did it in an attempt to survive the winter?
So why do we keep speaking about ‘gratification‘?
What’s the real difference between ‘instant’ and ‘delayed’ gratification? As long as we continue to see it as ‘the ultimate goal’?
A junkie who stretches his stash of dope for longer is any wiser than his mate who ‘enjoys’ his in one go?