'Alas! I have nor hope nor health,
Nor peace within, nor calm around,
Nor that content surpassing wealth
The sage in meditation found,
And walked with inward glory crowned....'
This shopping list of human desiderata concentrates what we would fain procure from life's exorbitant bazaar. Here, some haggle over trinkets, others reach for the gaudy, some choose the instrumental, still others prefer the quotidian. Yet everyone is like an archer, taking aim at that which he feels is the bull's-eye. He may err as to what it is, or where it is, but not with respect to the verity of archery. And what is life's bull's-eye, at which we all aim? I know someone who believes that pleasure is the only target to aim at. Another believes that he would be nearer the mark had he a little more money. A young archer adheres tenaciously to the conviction that computer games are not only the centre of the target, but of the very universe itself. I had even heard of a person whose angle of vision was resolutely confined to watching Sri Devi films! Now, not even the most statesmanlike compromise could subsume these under our shared, human goal.
But perhaps a statesman is not what we need at this stage of our inquiry. A philosopher would be closer to our mark! What substratum of endeavour does he descry beneath the weltering chaos of disappointed expectations, frustrated ambitions, misdirected affections, ruinous loves, insuperable vanity, pathetic ploddings, forlorn waitings, dejected wantings, neglected cravings? Beneath it all (with apologies to Larkin) desire for happiness runs.
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