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My current thoughts are that “happy, healthy, wise and wealthy” are not individual states to achieve but goals sought after, and when they are almost within easy grasp they vanish. They are orientations generated by our minds when we see something someone else has, or we think they have, that we desire for ourselves.

They are all based on envy and this is most obvious when we observe others who have great wealth. It appears from the outside that wealth brings with it easy purchase of everything desirable and the ability to buy one’s way out of undesirable situations. Of course, when one has more than they can spend it doesn’t feel that way at all. If you can just transfer some cash and you can have anything you want, then those things lose their attraction and are worthless. If you have enough money, and your friends all drive Porsches, like Janis Joplin suffered to sing about, then you buy several new ones in different colors, like Steve Jobs did. But that acquisitiveness was meaningless, so they launched into the ability to produce something that everyone wanted, such as irreproducible music or fantastic products that everyone else wanted.

The same processes operate with wisdom. From afar the possession of wisdom seems like a wonderful thing, because with wisdom you can obtain anything you want, even intangible things. But from the inside wisdom would seem hollow, because with wisdom you can foresee cause and effect and choose the desirable ends you seek. But what’s the value in that when you know how to do, this, that, and some other thing, and voilà, there it is, exactly what you wanted. Soon, that becomes meaningless and boring.

The health of the body seems like an infinitely desirable thing, and it is, but once possessed, health vanishes for the possessor, and those who have it just live their lives like everyone else. They are oblivious to the bounty of their health and go searching for something else, something that will make them believe they are happy. Perfect health doesn’t bring happiness, or wisdom, or wealth.

What is happiness but a transient moment of winning when you, a short while before, thought you might be a loser again? It is similar to contentment except for the element of time. Contentment lasts longer because it is based on winnings that have a lasting value. Happiness is when you or your team is winning a game, but contentment is owning your own home after paying off the mortgage. The win is bigger and more useful.

Each of these — Happy, Healthy, Wise and Wealthy — are momentary phantoms of the imagination, but they can sometimes have a positive value by motivating people seeking them to do positive things to help others.