What Gives You Peace of Mind?

Doug Stanfield is the son of a teacher and a nurse who grew up on a family farm in western Ohio. The family moved overseas for a couple of years, and he has moved around since. He has had a few disreputable occupations, including being a newspaper reporter and editor, and a public relations cog, but is trying to atone for his sins with poetry that tells stories, and stories that read like poems.

For a little change of pace, I’m sharing an essay I wrote for “Storyworth”, a family history/memoir project brought to me by my two sons. When I run out of gas, or they run out of questions–or both– we’ll end up with a bound hard-copy book for each of us that will be, essentially, my memoir, driven by their questions, and done one week at a time. The following is this week’s essay. 

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What Gives You Peace of Mind? you ask… 

Well… I have to take exception to the premise of this question. At least a little. I’m not against peace of mind in general, but just that I’m not sure that ought to be the goal. Or my goal, anyway.

And I think there’s a difference between being “happy” and having “peace of mind”. And there’s also a time element on both, and on unhappiness, too: nothing seems to be permanent, good or bad.

Lemme see if I can untangle that.

For one thing, I don’t think we humans are wired to be happy or content for long.

We eat, then a few hours later we’re hungry again and are motivated to go shoot something and cook it. (Or order pizza.) We listen to some beautiful music in the car, then some jerk cuts us off in traffic and we forget the music and get angry. We fall in love, but little irritants creep in and over time, we fall out of love. We seek the comforts of another and enjoy sex, and feel good for a while. But by the next day, the euphoria is gone and we get antsy again.

This is what the Buddhists mean when they say that all existence is suffering and an illusion. Everything