Long long ago when I was young, I once sat under a guava tree in our family garden for an extended period of time. I was emulating the famous British scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, hoping to gain some inspiration from a falling guava. That day was special for me. I had just decided on my future profession. I was gonna be a scientist and invent stuff. However, I had also realized that being a child, I did not yet possess the necessary skills a scientist would require in order to be able to practice his craft with a reasonable degree of competence. For example, I was still having problems with the multiplication table of 12. And so, my recourse had been to avail myself of the one thing freely available to anyone, even a child, that might help my transformation into a scientist of repute. Inspiration. Inspiration which, the legend of Sir Isaac Newton kept reminding us, could be obtained by sitting under an apple tree and waiting for fruit to fall off.
That was the reason why I found myself hunkered down at the base of the guava tree at 2:00 in the afternoon, since that was the only tree in our garden from which fruit had been known to fall off, (we had coconut trees as well but those are dangerous things to sit under) swatting those nasty red ants that were crawling up through a hole in the ground, waiting for gravity to take effect and bring me the inspiration I so sorely needed. Time passed by. People grew older. Somewhere in the world living creatures gave birth to their young and died. Food was digested, hair grew whiter and a million children were given a million nicknames that would stay on and haunt them throughout their lives.
But guavas refused to fall. Despondency crept over me. I was sad. Being a scientist was turning out to be a hard gig. My first order of business after turning into a full-fledged scientist, I decided, would be to invent a fast-forward button for life.
And then out fell a nice ripe greenish yellow guava. I was overjoyed. I had taken the first step towards becoming a scientist. I waited for inspiration. And then, I was inspired.
Why was I so overjoyed, I asked myself, over the mere incident of a falling guava? Maybe it had something to do with the vast ocean of sadness caused by the lack of falling guavas that I had been wallowing in merely 5 minutes earlier. And it was then that I realized that the guava had performed the task it was meant to do, and bestowed upon me a moment of enlightenment. I had formulated the law of conservation of happiness.
The law of conservation of happiness goes as follows : "Happiness cannot be created nor destroyed, it can only be transferred through space and time. The total amount of happiness in the universe remains constant."
Let me illustrate my thesis using a case study. It was a saturday and me and my wife were planning on travelling into Center City, Philadelphia by train to spend the day browsing the Museum of Art. As is to be expected, we left our apartment a mere 2 minutes before the scheduled departure of the train and pulled into the station just as the train pulled away. Sadness ensued. All, however, was not lost. There was another train to Philadelphia leaving from another station in 15 minutes. This station was about 5 miles away.
So we got into our cars and drove to this other train station. I had no idea as to its location. We realized that we were going to be late for this train as well. The next train, in case we missed this one, was in an hour. I was panicking. The total happiness content of my person reduced some more. After making some wrong turns and further depleting our happiness level, we finally found the station with the train standing by, ready to depart. We had made it barely in time.
Once we were comfortably ensconced inside the train, I realized that I was feeling tremendously exhilarated. It was strange, because all we had done was to catch a train. The happiness bouncing around inside my body was entirely disproportional to the reason behind it. But here's the point. The extra happiness I now possessed was that which had been depleted from the period before we boarded the train, when we had been feeling so low. Happiness hadn't been created, it had been transferred from pre-boarding time to post-boarding time.
Some of you might say this theory is bogus, and you might give me an example to contradict my claims. Hey, you might say, what about the boundless fields of joy your heart leaps through when you win the lottery? You were happy even before winning the lottery, so where did that extra happiness come from?
To which I would reply, that's easy enough. It came from the depleted happiness level of the millions of people who had purchased tickets for the same lottery who didn't win and instead, had to watch you win. In fact, this principle can be generalized to apply anywhere happiness is created, apparently out of thin air. As a rule of thumb, whenever one's happiness level gets a boost, it is compensated in an equal proportion by the numerous people who experience sorrow due to their begrudging of your windfall.
Thus, the thesis stands. Happiness can be transferred from one period of time to another, or from one location to another. However, it cannot be created. The total amount of happiness in the world remains constant.