Happiness, Dilbert, and Suffering

“There are two kinds of pain.  The sort of pain that makes you strong, or useless pain.  The sort of pain that’s only suffering.  I have no patience for useless things.” – House of Cards


Talk about suffering . . . these guys fight to the bitter finish!

Suffering and evil.

They exist.

But so does happiness.

Scott Adams (the Dilbert® author/artist) even has a formula for it.  His post about it is here (LINK).  The formula as presented by Mr. Adams is pretty simple:

Happiness = health + money + social life + meaning

That’s a pretty short list, and a pretty simple formula, and, unwittingly those are represent three of the four items that I chose to feature on this blog – Monday Meaning, Wednesday Wealth, and WilderHealth Friday (yeah, that rhyme sucks, let me know if you have a better one) that this blog is thematically intended to address.  I guess that great minds must think alike?


I believe Mr. Adams intended the list to be (more or less) in order.  For instance, if you’re on your deathbed, having money and a party with tequila-shooting 23 year old actual girl bikini models (you have to specify the “actual” part after 2016, I guess) in your room plus the Pope and Dalai Lama asking you for advice with their religious problems . . . okay, I’ll admit that’s not a bad way to go.  But the whole “going to die” in 20 minutes still turns the whole party into kind of a bummer, what with the dead dying guy and the Pope.  This Pope is not a party animal, unlike the last one . . . .

pope beer

Can I get an amen? – source, Internet, Provenance Unknown


Money is second on the list.  Is it?  I think so.

Money cannot by happiness, but it can buy experiences.  It can buy leisure time.  It can create situations where you have a social life.  And, it can create situations where you create meaningful experiences.  And I’ve been with very little money ($70 in the checking account and $150,000 in debt) and have been out of debt, and I very much recommend having money.  If you’re healthy, that’s a great start.  If you’re healthy and have money?  You can get to the next bits.

Social Life

So, you’ve got health, and money.  Without anyone who cares about you, it’ll seem pretty hollow, since we humans are (mostly) social creatures.  Oh, I’m sure that you’ll bring up Grizzly Adams® but even he had his bear, Ben.


In truth, Adams was just a businessman and shoemaker who made and lost several fortunes and died of an aggravated grizzly bear bite after a monkey bit him in the same spot five years later.  Normal, boring suburban life.  Picture source, Wikimedia, public domain.


So, finally we end up with First World Problems.  Health is a common problem in the world, as is money, although I think plenty of strong families do get by without money, and even find tons of meaning during a simple life.

Weird Al talking about First World Problems.  Perspective, right?

There’s probably a sweet spot for income, too.  There might be a classic “Three Bears” problem of too much, too little, just right, but I’ll imagine it skews more towards having too much money.  We’ll hit the topic of earning “too much money” (really, probably working so hard and so stressfully that you die sooner) some Wednesday.

Meaning is important, and I can recall some occasions in my life where I had all the money, social connections, and health anyone could really ask for, and then I’d start thinking about meaning.  It was during those situations that I realized that mankind wasn’t horribly predisposed to contentment.  If it isn’t health, material possessions or friends, we have to have something to search for, and it turns out meaning is an easy one.

And I think that the search for meaning often shows up when we do have most of our comforts met – I know that some periods of personal success have left me feeling hollower and brought me back to looking for that deeper side of life.

The Other Side of Happiness

Some churches and religious folks preach that money and the good life is a gift from God, and I’ll agree.  But we cannot forget the gift that suffering is.  I’m not sure that there are many people who have been made better by having all that money.  But when a person has to go through a tough time?  Suffering exists, and difficulty exists, and they exist so we can vanquish them and emerge from the other side, better and stronger.

Is there suffering?  Undoubtedly.

Is there evil?  Certainly.

These exist.  And, we can use them, or rather, in vanquishing them, if we do it right.  If we don’t give in to despair when suffering, if we don’t become evil in vanquishing evil, then we emerge on the other side better for our journey.  And stronger.

At least that’s what I told the Pope and the Dalai Lama, but I’m not sure they heard me over the music.  And the Pope can totally drink tequila.  He’s a party animal!

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom - How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.

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