Posted on May 16, 2016
Annie Dillard’s wonderful meditation “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” contains the memorable line “Evolution loves death more than you or me.” It is a mistake to think that what is natural is always your friend.
Evolution also loves competition more than happiness. Consider envy.
We are biologically primed to envy those who have what we would like to have but don’t. Envy is a spur to competition, which in the grand scheme of things tends to increase the chances that our chromosomes will prevail over others in the struggle for space in the gene pool.
However the way of happiness is not the way of envy.
It is possible to learn not to feel envy. The method is simple: change the mental subject each time it comes up.
Recognize envy (don’t try to deny it or suppress it), remind yourself that envy is self-destructive, refocus on what you already have that makes you happy, or go do something useful that gives you pleasure. Do this repeatedly until it is a reflex. Live with the reflex until envy becomes a barely noticeable flicker that has no importance in your life.
Then set out to prove evolution wrong. Have several happy kids who know how to evade envy.