I wrote about the state lottery or lotto a few months ago and how it is an additional, and insidious, burden against the poor, who make up the vast majority of lotto players. It’s also a major source of funds which the Arroyo administration routinely dips into for questionable purposes. No proper, transparent audit is done of lotto funds. It’s a form of gambling which sustains institutionalized corruption .
Of course, all my pontificating about the evils of the lotto didn’t stop me from recently betting on the 6/49 Super Lotto draw, where the prize had grown to a record-breaking P249 million jackpot for the proper six-number combination. I didn’t win it, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t be blogging about it now. I would be at a remote premier island resort in Malaysia or Indonesia or somewhere, chuckling at the whims of fate while polishing off my second or third US$40,000 magnum of Lafite ‘45.
Instead, I’m in front of my monitor, trying to be philosophical about my failing to achieve my life-changing fantasy and plotting my next stab at instant millionairehood.
Everyone in the office, from the messenger to the president, bet on the Super Lotto as the pot got bigger. Of course, it was the messenger who had to stand in line for an hour or more with everyone’s betting slips. Life isn’t fair but, theoretically at least, everyone had an even chance of winning, from the janitor to the CEO.
As it turned out the single winner of the P249 million was from Novaliches, Quezon City. The lotto outlet which sold the winning ticket is located at a public market a block or so away from a co-worker’s home, and for days the neighborhood was abuzz with rumors as to who could have won. The winner wisely went under deep cover, fearful of being kidnapped or cornered by well-wishers expecting the traditional “balato”. Then, out of the blue, an unassuming neighborhood hog raiser and meat trader gave away all his livestock to neighbors and random strangers, and hurriedly abandoned his house. A lucky few close friends reportedly received tidy sums as a goodwill and farewell gesture before he disappeared for parts unknown. He has now become part of Philippine lotto lore, and his story will be clung to and retold by millions of future bettors hoping for that one, life-altering 6-number combination.
But is winning the lotto realy life-changing ? On one level, it obviously is. One day you’re a market vendor and backyard entrepreneur, worrying about the rising price of feeds. The very next day you’re P249 million richer, worrying, happily and giddily I would imagine, about how to manage your suddenly improved finances while escaping with your life.
On another level (and here comes the rationalization for my crushing disappointment at not even coming close to the lucky combination) it’s not. According to Psychology Today:
Most of us have a happiness “set point,” fixed by temperament and early life experience, which is very difficult to shift. Whether you win the lottery or wind up in a wheelchair, within a year or two you generally end up just about as happy (or unhappy) as you started out.
Thus, according to this theory, which has been supported by numerous studies, initial intense experiences may bring a surge of joy and well-being or sorrow, as the case may be. But the feeling of being on top of the world or at the pits does not last, and we will naturally and inevitably return to our happiness set-point or what scientists call the “hedonic set point” or happiness thermostat. Researchers argue that 50%-80% of our happiness thermostat is genetically determined. In short, our level of happiness is, to a major extent, in our genes and nothing we do or experience can change this fact.
It’s the same thing for weight or body type. People can lose or gain, improve or get worse, but without extraordinary effort, they aren’t likely to take long leaps in either direction from their physical set point.
What then can really make us happy ? Its simple, according to positive thinkers and Zen Buddhists, sports psychologists and new-age gurus: being in the moment or “going with the flow”, relishing the company of family and friends, doing what you love or are good at, practicing compassion and altruism, “moderating your greed” as Jun Lozada would put it. And being grateful for what you have and counting your blessings every day.
There, I feel better already.