"Happiness is like a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."
That quote is sometimes attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne, and it seems like something he might have said...but actually, the quote belongs to someone else. It was heard as early as June 1848 in an article in "The Daily Crescent," a New Orleans newspaper. The identify of the author is unknown, as he was only identified by the initial "L." His article consisted of his poetically inclined definitions of numerous English words, such as "Love," "Wealth," and of course "Happiness." No matter who the single author, it is a sentiment with which many can probably relate...including me, of course.
So why did I call the website "Chasingthebutterfly.net"? Well, for one thing, "Chasingthebutterfly.com" was already taken...but seriously. Why not "Catchingthebutterfly" or some such thing? It's because it's a pretty good description of my life, and the life of many around me. Although I know it's futile to chase the butterfly, I don't think I can stop. As Morpheus said in the Matrix, "There's a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path." I know the path, but there is too much inertia keeping me from consistently walking the path. I'm not even sure any human being can really completely stop.
I read a post in Quora from Richard Muller, a renowned Physics professor and author, who lamented that dissatisfaction is an ingrained part of human nature, but at the same time, it is the fuel that is responsible for human success, and for the continued progress in the world. He said that his life strategy is to essentially let himself flow along with the uncontrolled instinct and struggle to achieve, while simultaneously recognizing "how blessed I am already." It is refreshing to find someone who is so knowledgeable about the physical universe, but also spends a lot of time contemplating deeper questions outside the realm of science, trying to probe the secrets of the unknowable ocean that surrounds our island of knowledge.
So too shall I follow Dr. Muller's strategy. As I strive for that work bonus....as I grumble about the increasing pressures to do more with less...as I compulsively check the growing brown spots in my lawn...as I keep checking the buds on my sick tree hoping for its eventual revival...as I fret about the future of my children in a sea of competitive multitalented trust-fund kids...I just need to constantly remind me that I AM indeed chasing a butterfly. That I should occasionally stop and take a breath, clear my head of thoughts, sit down quietly for a while. If perchance a butterfly does land on my shoulder, I should enjoy its presence while it lasts without trying to possess it, and to "kiss the joy as it flies." I suppose it's those fleeting moments among the hectic noise of daily life that will turn out to be the most precious.
Northern California dad