The secret to satisfaction has nothing to do with achievement, money, or stuff.

The secret to satisfaction has nothing to do with achievement, money, or stuff.

via the Atlantic by Arthur C Brooks

I glanced into my teenage daughter’s bedroom one spring afternoon last year, expecting to find her staring absentmindedly at the Zoom screen that passed for high school during the pandemic. Instead, she was laughing uproariously at a video she had found. I asked her what she was looking at. “It’s an old man dancing like a chicken and singing,” she told me.

I came over to her laptop, not being above watching someone making an idiot of himself for 15 seconds of social-media fame. What I found instead was the septuagenarian rock star Mick Jagger, in a fairly recent concert, croaking out the Rolling Stones’ megahit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”—a song that debuted on the charts when I was a year old—for probably the millionth time. An audience of tens of thousands of what looked to be mostly Baby Boomers and Gen Xers sang along rapturously.

“Is this serious?” she asked. “Do people your age actually like this?” I took umbrage, but had to admit it was a legitimate question. “Kind of,” I answered. It wasn’t just the music, or even the performance, I assured her. To my mind, the longevity of that particular song—No. 2 on Rolling Stone magazine’s original list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”—has a lot to do with a deep truth it speaks.

As we wind our way through life, I explained, satisfaction—the joy from fulfillment of our wishes or expectations—is evanescent. No matter what we achieve, see, acquire, or do, it seems to slip from our grasp.

I was on a roll now. Satisfaction, I told my daughter, is the greatest paradox of human life. We crave it, we believe we can get it, we glimpse it and maybe even experience it for a brief moment, and then it vanishes. But we never give up on our quest to get and hold on to it. “I try, and I try, and I try, and I try,” Jagger sings. How? Through sex and consumerism, according to the song. By building a life that is ever more baroque, expensive, and laden with crap.

“You’ll see,” I told her…

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