Felix Salmon on finding stuff that we can buy which brings us pleasure:
What we’re looking for is something which will predictably make us happier in the short term, which will have very little in the way of negative long-term effects, and which can be repeated as often as you like. Basically, any time you want to be happier, spend some money on this, and you’ll be happier. And then it’s over, and you can go back to your life, and if you want to do it again, you can.
I think there’s something in this. It’s part of what we seek when we go out and buy good coffee. We don’t do it with the intention of becoming “fancy” and impress anybody with our complex taste and intricate knowledge of flavor characteristics (Spoiler: no one cares) but because it makes our day just a little bit better and makes us just a little bit happier.
“Upgrading” parts of your life with a purchase is something we hopefully have all experienced. Nice pens, good hardware, a great bag, this gear can make our lives better. But what if you take it away? Can you still use a Bic ballpoint? Drink coffee from a diner?
We don’t want something where you’re sad when you don’t have it. We just want something where you’re happy when you do have it. And which you can buy with money.
That’s what Salmon was looking for and found in wine.
Desire is deeply embedded in people who are driven to improve. We want to get better at writing, to get our finances in order so we can take that trip. We want the best for ourselves, for our family, for our customers. But that’s not always what we have. All we have is now.
Happiness can sometimes be easier to reach by shifting our perspective rather than always finding a more productive path to that endpoint. Our goal when we buy coffee or wine is to be happier and we need a little help to get there. But it’s not about arbitrarily needing that vice.
I think the balance is in finding and buying the best we can right now. So go for it, buy that better bottle of wine. I know I walk the extra block to get the better cup of coffee when I can and I enjoy the hell out of it. But any time I’m drinking coffee it’s the best damn coffee I’m drinking right now.
And that makes me happy.