What does a man need — really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in, and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all — in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, and preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.
There are years when nothing happens and years in which centuries happen.
“Living it up” has become the leitmotif of modern man—a compulsive hyperactivity without any downtimes, no gap of unscheduled time, lest we end up alone with ourselves. The meaning doesn’t matter, so long as it’s intense. We feel that without constant activity, life would be fatally insipid. Friends of mine who lead cultural tours in Asia have told me how their clients can’t bear the least gap in their itinerary. “Is there really nothing scheduled between five and seven?” they ask anxiously. We are, it seems, afraid to turn our gaze in in upon ourselves. We are fully focused on the exterior world, as experienced through our five senses. It seems naive to believe that such a feverish search for intense experience can lead to a lasting enriched quality of life.
If we do take the time to explore our inner world, it’s in the form of daydreaming and imagination, dwelling on the past of fantasizing endlessly about the future. A genuine sense of fulfillment, associated with inner freedom, can also offer intensity to every living moment, but of an altogether different sort. It is a sparkling experience of inner well-being, in which the beauty of each thing shines through. It is knowing how to enjoy the present moment, the willingness to nurture altruism and serenity and bring the best part of ourselves to mature—transforming oneself to better transform the world.
—Matthieu Ricard in Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill