Materialism, Quantum Physics, & Happiness (from fifth grade to present day)
“What you’ll find is the only thing you really want from this life is to feel enthusiasm, joy, and love. If you can feel that all the time, then who cares what happens on the outside?” – Michael Singer in The Untethered Soul
I understood this when I was eleven years old. I was sitting on the gym floor watching the fifth grade talent show, feeling distinctly untalented when I began an internal inquiry that went something like what’s below.
What is it that I want?
I want to be talented.
Then I’ll be liked.
Why does that matter?
If I’m liked, I’ll be happy.
Does happiness depend on others?
Can you cultivate happiness? Yes.
The past twenty-plus years have had plenty of ups and downs. I wouldn’t say I’ve lived a saintly life, but I’ve been an enthusiastic participant. I’ve tried to get the most out of life, to understand the world, myself, and the relationship between the two.
It seems like the default orientation to the world, the materialist worldview, is quite seductive. There is always a promise of a reward if something happens first. You’ll be happy if you buy this, if you accomplish that, etc., etc. The materialist postulates that happiness is contingent upon outside circumstances. Pursuing materialist success to achieve happiness is an endless loop. It’s never going to be enough. But it’s so, so seductive. There is always something that will bring happiness, whether it’s a promotion, possession, relationship, or experience. In the materialist’s worldview, the something that will bring happiness can be likened to a bridge. If only I cross this bridge, I’ll enter the promised land…
I’m starting to see why so many modern seekers have become fascinated with quantum physics. While the default, materialist view postulates that we must build bridges to happiness, the seeker rejects this explanation. The seeker has probably built many bridges in the hopes of securing eternal happiness only to realize the futility of this approach. Quantum physics teaches us that the world is not what meets the eye. The forces that govern the universe are stranger and more inexplicable than those that allow us to build bridges. Material success doesn’t guarantee happiness, far from it. Understanding the nature of reality, even when it conflicts with the prevailing worldview, is the path to liberation. It’s the only way off the hamster wheel.
What’s the moral of this story? If you want to build a bridge, hire a civil engineer, not a quantum physicist. Don't look to the materialist toolkit if you want lasting happiness and peace.
Musings as I read The Untethered Soul for the eighth or ninth time...while the seeking may have started in fifth grade, it was reignited by this book from Michael Singer.