The Paradoxical Abacus of Life

Life comes packaged with highs and lows. This is a fundamental truth and no matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, our lives are – and always will be – full of subtle shifts between good and bad, light and dark, day and night, joy and sadness, hot and cold.

We all experience happiness. And distress? Well, no one wants it, but it comes anyway. To survive the paradoxical abacus of life, there is a secret. There is a balance.

You see, I have come to realise – as have many, much wiser people have before me – that happiness comes of its own accord, without a person having to desire it. We may put all our efforts into trying to avoid despair, but sooner or later, we will experience that too.

A sober person does not get elated when they feel happiness, nor do they become despondent when in a distressed situation. We should know, understand, and accept that there are dualities in life that are married to each other, despite our individual actions or desires: hot and cold; day and night; happiness and pain. They will always come. The secret, the balance, is that a person remains happy until they try to make arrangements to be happy… and that is the beginning of their distress.

I remember a story that goes with these thoughts. It’s simple, but perfectly sums up the consequences of not being at peace with cards we are dealt in life.

There once was a student, a yogi, trying to meditate in a hut with his yoga teacher. He was being bothered by a mouse, so he said to his teacher in despair: “I want to get rid of this mouse! It is annoying me and I cannot concentrate on my meditation!”

So, the teacher asked him: “Are you sure you want to get rid of the mouse? Because if you fix one problem, then another problem is quite likely to appear in its place.”

But the young yogi was adamant. “Yes! I am sure! I simply cannot meditate with this silly mouse running around!”

So the teacher suggested that the yogi get a cat to take care of the rogue mouse.

The problem of the mouse was gone. But just as the student started to settle back into his meditation, the cat started meowing. To quieten the cat, the student decided to get some milk. But from where could he get the milk?

A cow was brought to the hut to provide the milk for the cat, who had rid the hut of the mouse in order for the student to meditate. But now, thought the student in an even deeper despair, who will look after my cow and my cat?

The student’s teacher smiled wisely. “Well young yogi, you should better get a wife to help you.” And so, the student found himself a loving wife, who wanted a house and children.

Because of one, little mouse, the student now had no time at all to meditate, a meowing cat, a large cow, a wife to satisfy, children to feed, and a life much more complicated that when a ‘silly little mouse’ was running around his hut.

It’s like this in life. When we are unhappy, we try to solve a problem, and 10 other problems arise. We invented cars for efficiency, and are now left to deal with the payback of pollution. Examples like this can be found the world over. The more we try to fix things, the more we ruin them.

Happiness will come to you – it is already vested that you will experience it, but you are not the controller of how or when you will experience it.

And with that, I leave you with a question that I am constantly asking myself. “What is the goal of life?” Is it sense-gratification? To be happy? Or is there a higher purpose in the human form of life?

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director
QI Group