Up Ducks Down Ducks

Happiness explained by the up duck wallpaper border.

Imagine a building with a sloping shed roof. The highest wall is 10 feet tall and the lowest wall is eight feet tall. The end walls are each 10 foot tall at the high end and eight feet tall at the low end. The interior of this building has the walls completely covered with wallpaper. At the top of all four walls is a wallpaper border with pairs of ducks flying all in the same direction, each pair a short distance behind the pair ahead of it. The width of this border is about eight inches (20 centimeters). If the ducks in the border could fly forward, they would go around and around and never move beyond the lines at the top of the border and the bottom of the border.

The border represents happiness and its relationship to wealth, power, and intelligence. The top of the border represents joy, exaltation, and/or extreme happiness. The bottom of the border represents sadness, despair, depression, and/or extreme unhappiness.

Years ago, we had a house with vaulted ceilings with 10-foot walls around the main living area and eight foot walls on the outside of the adjoining dining area. The dining area was wallpapered and had the above-described border around the top of all four walls. One day, as described by Zen Buddhism, the truth of this border hit me when I wasn’t searching for it. With a happiness metaphor in mind, I named the ducks on the high wall “high ducks”. On the eight foot wall the ducks are “low ducks”. With all the ducks flying the same direction in the border, on one end of the room the ducks were struggling upward, “up ducks”. On the other end the descending ducks were “down ducks”. With the top and bottom of the border representing happiness and unhappiness it can be seen the ducks in all four situations have the same amount of happiness and unhappiness available to them.

If I had been born intelligent into a wealthy family making wealth and power available to me I would be represented in the border by a high duck. Had I been born with low or average intelligence into a dirt poor family, I would be represented by a low duck. If I had been born on one of the end walls I would either be struggling upward, an up duck, or coasting downward, a down duck.

We don’t have to be Buddhists to accept the fact happiness and unhappiness are not related in any direct way to wealth, power or intelligence. High ducks (rich people) can love life and spend most of their time happy or, they can dislike their existence and live a life of despair. Ironically, the same alternatives exist for low ducks, (poor people) up ducks and  down ducks .

A low duck does not have to obtain wealth, power and intelligence to enjoy life but if it tries to obtain wealth or more knowledge it is represented by an up duck. If a high duck (rich person) is losing wealth or stature, it is represented by a down duck.

As the songs says: “Be happy”.