Service Bling


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Category: Reflections 27 Aug 06


With apologies to the lovely couple who, as a treat, paid for my first ride in one of the longest stretch limos I have ever seen, I have to count that experience among the worst few hours of my life.


The driver gushed in a tone designed to impress by name dropping the various celebrities who rode in this same self limo, pointed to the alcohol on display, gestured at the space that allows for ten to party, and I wanted to throw up. It felt like a hearse. I prayed for that New York City tour to end. If this was happiness, I wasn’t missing anything.


What is happiness? Does money buy it? Everyone says it doesn’t but secretly everyone believes it does. That’s why everyone is scratching their way to the top and why the few that get there make sure they kick the ladder out of the way once they do to make sure no one takes their place.


It’s why we avidly follow the lives of the rich and the famous in the western world.


And why there are paparazzi roaring on motorbikes, hiding out in the bushes, chasing the dead Dianas and alive Britneys, and that’s why a Jolie, Pitt and child photograph can sell for US$5 million and why meeting Brian Lara at a fete reduced me to jelly. We believe the rich and famous are celestial beings.


We feed the multi-million magazine market eyes boggling at this species of stars set apart from us mortals. We think they’ve found the Holy Grail, the elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.


I always find it strange that these celestial beings frequently make weird remarks like “we are human.” Of course they are. Fabulous wealth, fame and its attendant power (the ingredients of happiness, we think) must bring about a kind of bewilderment, a permanent question in the eyes of the owner as if to say “Is this it?”


Happiness gene


We are equally bewildered to find in this species a shockingly high incidence of suicides, drug and alcohol addictions, eating disorders, strings of unstable relationships and shocking stories of abuse in the celebrities we so admire.


This brings us back full circle. The search for the Holy Grail. The happiness gene. I have heard of at least two new books by psychologists on the subject. The first concludes that happiness is the ability to look forward to something.


The second study is startling since instead of following pop psychology that urges everyone to look within and discover themselves, it declares that happiness comes from “service” to others. Service is the new bling.


These people can afford to make themselves enormously happy by giving away their money to the dark side of the world where every day millions die from lack of basic amenities, or live in one of the 36 warring countries worldwide.


It explains some stuff, like Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono being named Time Magazines Persons of the Year for their humanitarian work for the world’s poor and Warren Buffet, the second richest man in the world, bequeathing US$30 billion to the Gates foundation. It explains Elton John’s tireless multi million dollar HIV/Aids foundation. It explains the many times voted “most beautiful/sexiest woman in the world” Angelina Jolie giving birth in Namibia, being passionate about bringing focus and value to the invisible people of the world, war torn, poverty stricken, disease filled millions in Africa.


I have heard that the Spanish are among the happiest nations in the world. When I met a Spaniard recently she told me that every citizen had to contribute out of their salary, as a compulsory tax, towards a non-governmental organisation of their choice. I would like to see this tax in our much anticipated budget. Each person mandated to contribute to the ill, the poor, the illiterate, the elderly, the unemployed, the wretched among us. Service bling.


Happiness. It’s not in the stars. It’s in our open hearts and hands.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur