We were high up over the green sea, and the noise of the propellers beating the air and the roar of the exhaust made talking difficult. Besides, there were some college boys going to an athletic meet on the island; one of them had a banjo, and he played upon it and sang for many hours. He egged on the others, and they all joined in singing together. The boy with the banjo had a good voice, and the songs were American, songs of the crooners and the cowboys, or jazz. They did it all very well, just like the gramophone records. They were an odd group, concerned only with the present; they had not a thought of anything but immediate enjoyment. Tomorrow held all the troubles: job, marriage, old age and death. But here, high over the sea, it was American songs and picture papers. The lightning among the dark clouds they ignored, and they never saw the curve of the land as it pursued the sea, nor the distant village in the sun.
The island was almost below us now. It was green and sparkling, freshly washed by the rains. How neat and orderly everything was from that altitude! The highest hill was flattened, and the white waves had no movement. A brown fishing boat with sails was hurrying before the storm; she would reach safety, for the port was in sight. The winding river came down to the sea, and the soil was golden brown. At that height one saw what was happening on both sides of the river, and the past and the future met. The future was not hidden, though it lay around the bend. At that height there was neither the past nor the future; curving space did not conceal either the time of sowing or the time of reaping.
The man in the next seat began to talk of the difficulties of life. He complained of his job, the incessant travelling, the inconsiderateness of his family, and the futility of modern politics. He was on his way to some far-off place, and was rather sad at leaving his home. As he talked he became more and more serious, more and more concerned about the world and particularly about himself and his family.
‘I would like to go away from it all to some quiet place, work a little, and be happy. I don’t think I have been happy in all my life, and I don’t know what it means. We live, breed, work and die, like any other animal. I have lost all enthusiasm, except for making money, and that too is becoming rather boring. I am fairly good at my job and earn a good salary, but what it is all about I haven’t the vaguest idea. I would like to be happy, and what do you think I can do about it?’
It is a complex thing to understand, and this is hardly the place for a serious talk.
‘I am afraid I have no other time; the moment we land I must be off again. I may not sound serious, but there are spots of seriousness in me; the only trouble is, they never seem to get together. I am really quite serious at heart. My father and my older relations were known for their earnestness, but the present economic conditions don’t allow one to be completely serious. I have been drawn away from all that, but I would like to get back to it and forget all this stupidity. I suppose I am weak and grumbling about circumstances; but all the same, I would like to be really happy.’
Sensation is one thing, and happiness is another. Sensation is always seeking further sensation, ever in wider and wider circles. There is no end to the pleasures of sensation; they multiply, but there is always dissatisfaction in their fulfillment; there is always the desire for more, and the demand for more is without end. Sensation and dissatisfaction are inseparable, for the desire for more binds them together. Sensation is the desire for more and also the desire for less. In the very act of the fulfillment of sensation, the demand for more is born.
The more is ever in the future; it is the everlasting dissatisfaction with what has been. There is conflict between what has been and what will be. Sensation is always dissatisfaction. One may clothe sensation in religious garb, but it is still what it is: a thing of the mind and a source of conflict and apprehension.
Physical sensations are always crying for more; and when they are thwarted, there is anger, jealousy, hatred. There is pleasure in hatred, and envy is satisfying; when one sensation is thwarted, satisfaction is found in the very antagonism that frustration has brought.