It was in the news recently that an advice on a note written by Albert Einstein describing his theory of happiness has sold for US$1.56 million at a Jerusalem auction. See here or here.

And what did the note read?

“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” -Einstein


I find it really ironic and I think Einstein would have too. Someone paid over $1.5m in a bidding war lasting over 25 minutes for a note advising them that they are better off living a modest and calm life! The letter had originally been estimated to sell for between $5,000 and $8,000, according to the Winner’s Auctions. This demonstrates the craziness going on during the auction.

I don’t wish to pass judgment on the buyer because I really don’t know their intention. But if it is purchased for personal possession; as opposed to donating it to a public museum for instance; then it flies in the face of Einstein’s advice, does it not?

In fact, I never understood why rich people pay millions of dollars for artwork or rare memorabilia to add to their private collections. Perhaps some do it for tax minimisation. But then I would seriously question the wisdom of Government Tax departments where such deduction is permitted. I would instead offer extra tax incentives for artwork on the condition that they are donated to public museums and galleries. Beautiful artwork and historically significant objects should belong to the public, not be hidden in private collections.

Anyway, back to my main thread that the pursuit of happiness is a fallacy. This pursuit; however; is a trap that all of us fall into. Some see the light, some eventually give up and may then naturally experience simple happiness. But most keep trying and trying only to find fleeting happiness, then seeking even harder or look elsewhere; a never-ending futile search. That is all normal and has been part of the human condition for thousands of years, but this recent episode should have a special place in classic ironies if there ever was such a register.

Einstein’s advice is a piece of timeless wisdom that many sages have offered from time immemorial; including Rumi who pointed it out in a wonderful poem centuries ago:

All your restlessness
is rooted in your seeking restfulness.
Be a restless seeker
of the truth.
Restfulness will find you. -Rumi

You can read my post on this topic and Rumi’s poem here.