Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Threatening Idea About Happiness

Again, now I know what the Beastie's were actually singing to me yesterday and the days before - that 'happiness isn't just some sort of a feeling'.

Oh my God, it's a mirage, I'm tellin' y'all it's sabotage!

From the NYTimes Opinionator blogs:

Happiness isn’t just up to you. It also requires the cooperation of the world beyond you. 

To put the point in a nutshell, watching your child play soccer for the first time is a great thing not because it produces a really enjoyable experience; on the contrary, what normally makes the experience so special is that it’s an experience of watching your child, playing soccer, for the first time. Sure it feels good — paralyzingly good. It matters, though, that the feeling is there as a response to the reality: the feeling by itself is the wrong sort of thing to make for a happy life.

Happiness is more like knowledge than like belief. 

There are lots of things we believe but don’t know. Knowledge is not just up to you, it requires the cooperation of the world beyond you — you might be mistaken. Still, even if you’re mistaken, you believe what you believe. Pleasure is like belief that way. But happiness isn’t just up to you. It also requires the cooperation of the world beyond you. Happiness, like knowledge, and unlike belief and pleasure, is not a state of mind.

To live a happy life is to flourish.

One especially apt way of thinking about happiness — a way that’s found already in the thought of Aristotle — is in terms of “flourishing.” Take someone really flourishing in their new career, or really flourishing now that they’re off in college. The sense of the expression is not just that they feel good, but that they’re, for example, accomplishing some things and taking appropriate pleasure in those accomplishments. If they were simply sitting at home playing video games all day, even if this seemed to give them a great deal of pleasure, and even if they were not frustrated, we wouldn’t say they were flourishing. Such a life could not in the long term constitute a happy life.

Happiness is harder to get. 

It’s enjoyed after you’ve worked for something, or in the presence of people you love, or upon experiencing a magnificent work of art or performance — the kind of state that requires us to engage in real activities of certain sorts, to confront real objects and respond to them. And then, too, we shouldn’t ignore the modest happiness that can accompany pride in a clear-eyed engagement with even very painful circumstances.

Read David Sosa's excellent piece in it's entirety here.

[Incidentally, this point isn't really new at all. Click on the pic for a merrier and melodic explanation]

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Jacqueline Johns - Your Happy Life Mentor said...


Sure, happiness is easier to come by when outside forces cooperate with our wishes, but it is possible without the cooperation of anyone or anything.

Happiness is simply a choice we make in every moment, whether we perceive that moment as 'good' or 'bad' is irrelevant. We can choose to be happy or not.

Live Life Happy!