Before we left for this particular “ski week holiday”, I initiated a conversation with students regarding the common themes of history. Essentially there seems to be a very common thread of “you have something I want so I’m going to fight you for it.” Somehow one of the students decided that we would have peace if people would just CHOOSE to be happy. I jumped on that like white on rice. I asked, “Do people truly want to be happy?”
The students looked at me like I was crazy, except for a few. One particularly gifted young man pointed out that some people derive their pleasure from bringing others down. He said that some people will look for a weakness and then just pick at it. DAMN! He was 100% right on. We all know those people (I point out that sometime I am that person).
Others pointed out that you get happiness when you get stuff. The usual stuff was bandied about — clothes, electronics, getting to go “shopping.” Which lead to the question of are you happy with your stuff? Uhm, not always was the consensus. Many students had examples of kids (sometimes themselves) “losing” their electronic toys so they would have to get the new, better version. Others talked of cousins who threw fits because their parents didn’t buy them the most expensive or “the best”. All could point out that these behaviors were “spoiled”, but they all understood the impetus. They all want the new, best stuff. However, another girl pointed out, if there’s always new stuff that you want, can you really be happy then.
Out of the mouths of babes.
We had the conversation about does stuff make you happy? Of course it does for a while. Until you need new stuff.
Which made another student conclude that ENVY is what drives people. She pointed out that wanting things made people act poorly because you WANT what other people have. Then ENVY drove you to do things because you want people to ENVY you. You want to have the things that make people think you’re cool.
Even without being exposed to Buddhism, they get the idea that all pain is caused by people’s greedy desires for possessions (we didn’t get into power or pleasure). I did link this to the Biblical phrase, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” They understood money meant stuff.
Finally, one really sage young man pointed out that our world cannot operate without stuff. We’d have no economy. After all, we get money by buying and selling things. Therefore, envy was an integral part of economic policy. Again, DAMN. In his mind, wanting stuff was basically why history happened at all. He then decided that peace would be boring, and that we don’t really want it. We just want to be SECURE or SAFE. As long as “we’re” safe, life is good.
We’re talking 10-12 year olds, friends. They GET it!
What I’m curious to see, though, is what will they do with this knowledge?