The quest for happiness is something that gives us all pause for thought so you’ll be pleased to know that I have found the answer. It’s three! (Or free if you’re Bill Shorten – yes, all right, not nice to mock someone’s speech impediment but that’ll teach him to do the dirty on Julia!) But it’s true. The latest theory on happiness is so simple! All you need are three ingredients. It takes more than that to make a cake with a packet cake mix (apologies to the domestic goddesses out there.)
A Betty Crocker Choc Fudge cake might give you a temporary mild high, but doesn’t claim to offer the panacea for all life’s ills, unlike Deakin University’s Robert Cummins, who is “considered the country’s leading expert on happiness.” I’m not sure how you prove that contention and in the picture I saw he wasn’t even smiling, but he reckons all you need are a loving partner, meaningful occupation and $100,000 a year. Well der, that’s not mere happiness, that’s delirious joy for 94% of the population who don’t make the six-figure cut. (2012 Bureau of Statistics figures but you get the drift)
I’m sure his extensive research has been grossly over-simplified, and he has been measuring this stuff for many years but what aroused my interest was the number three. That’s what got Prof Cummins pinged around the world, because it seems we like that number and it’s an attractive and meaningful notation in our, and many other cultures: Once you start looking you won’t be able to stop: Three bind mice, three little pigs, three bowls of porridge, three wise men, three wishes are all fed to our kids in stories. We throw three coins in a fountain and have three men in a boat. Then it gets serious: Peter denies Christ three times, the holiest of mysteries is the Trinity and if you’re an offender in West Australia or a baseball player, three strikes and you’re out. Don’t even start googling it if you haven’t got all day, so I’ll just give you a taster. The mathematical significance is mind-boggling:
Three is the first odd prime number and the second smallest prime. It is both the first Fermat prime (22n + 1) and the first Mersenne prime (2n − 1), the only number that is both, as well as the first lucky prime. However, it is the second Sophie Germain prime, the second Mersenne prime exponent, the second factorial prime (2! + 1), the second Lucas prime, the second Stern prime. Three is the first unique prime due to the properties of its reciprocal.
Who knew? Not me, and after reading that I still don’t.
Then there are the New Age properties:
This symbol is a triad or trinity. It is a symbol of the unity of body, mind and spirit. The symbol is of universal significance – it is found throughout history and all over the world. It was popularized early in this century by the Russian-born artist, philosopher and scientist, Nicholas Roerich. (http://www.roerich.org). It can be interpreted in many different senses: spirit/mind/body in a circle of synthesis; past/present/future enclosed in the ring of eternity; art/science/religion bound in a circle of culture.
I now know why students used to plonk these factoids into their assignments and claim them as their own. They are truly impressive, and it seems I’m not the only one obsessed with the number three and looking to the internet for answers and no, I didn’t make these up:
Q: I had a dream that I was pregnant, and holding 3 eggs in my hand while the second coming of Christ was happening and I’m seeing all these signs. What does it mean? Thank you so much.
I could tell you what it means but you might not like it. Maybe I can put you in touch with a fellow traveller:
Q: I just found a birthmark on my right arm – 3 dots in a perfect triangle. I found it by coincidence while reading something about birthmarks – I directly looked to that spot on my arm, even though I never saw it before. What does it mean?
Hmm…should have gone to Specsavers?
So I am sure it won’t surprise you to learn that I have my own theory of happiness, and guess what? It involves the magic number three. But before you flick wearily away I’ll tell you it also involves chips – hot chips. (That’s fries for our American cousins). I hereby announce to the world my soon-to be- famous and as far as I know completely original THREE CHIP THEORY! Tara! Drum Roll! Lots of glitter pouring down from on high!
It occurred to me as I was munching my way through a bucket of chips and wondering why, with each chip the enjoyment diminished, rather than increased. Surely this flies in the face of all mathematical theory: chips = pleasure therefore more chips = more pleasure Q.E.D. So why wasn’t I feelin’ it? My mind drifted back to the moment the chips arrived and that’s when I realised it. That first chip is heavenly, the second is pretty good and the third is all right too but after that it’s downhill. OMG! The pleasure of chips is all about appetite, which diminishes with each chip! So why keep on eating? You’ve had your fun! Well here’s the big insight into human nature. We keep eating the chips, not because we’re hungry but because we want that exquisite taste of the first chip back again. And the more we eat, the further it recedes and we end up feeling full, and full of remorse. Did I really eat that whole bucket of chips? It’s a delusion, not quite on the scale of F Scott Fitzgerald’s magnificent dream for Gatsby, “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can.” but I like to think I’ve made my own fast food contribution to the great debate on the human condition.
And it’s not just chips. That’s what makes the theory so good. Think of anything – bottles of wine, husbands, Twilight movies, leaders of political parties in one term, even rugby games against the British and Irish Lions; what area of life is there that you shouldn’t have stopped at three?
So while I’m on a roll, I’ll offer you my other threeory of life. It’s a bit like Professor Cummins’ but more modest: I reckon there are three areas of life that make a big difference and can help you through the unforeseen ups and downs:
- A job/occupation you love
- A person/people who love you
- A place you love to live
If you have all three you’ve hit the jackpot. Two and you can manage very well, and one isn’t optimum, but gives you something to build on. Having none of the above makes it heavy going, so maybe re-examine one of the elements that it is in your power to change. It’s a start!
And if none of that works, there’s always chocolate – three bars should do it.