Thursday, October 7, 2010

Further Discourse on Happiness.

Reading through The Picture of Dorian Gray, I chanced upon a realization that had been toying with my head for years. Indeed, it is true that maleficence and the years corrupt the body. But is it also true that knowledge corrupts the mind?

Most of the happiest people I have ever known are also some of the most ignorant ones. Most of the intellectually gifted people I know are deeply troubled, in one way or the other. And it’s the existentialists that seem to be the most perturbed of the lot. Why is it that self-awareness (or any form of awareness at all) unleashes a nagging discontent upon those who may seek it? Most of us may live our lives in the pursuit of happiness, but to what end? If it is a state of mind, then do the aforementioned facts not point to the delusional nature of all human desires and their satisfaction? If yes, then the integrity of rationale and accurate perception is dearly compromised, and life is lived on a background tinted with contrition. If not, then the value of happiness itself is a grotesque overestimation. It is somewhere between these arguments that I hope to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I do, however, lean towards the latter.

I have always believed that happiness is an over-rated concept. When we have the entire spectrum of human emotions available to us, to paint our world in just one color would take a serious lack of imagination. Existence wouldn’t have much meaning, if we didn’t taste all the flavors it has to offer. Wrath, Despair, and Fear are just as crucial human experiences, if not more. After all, they are far more intense, and intensity begets exhilaration. If we were to miss out on that, then it would be a life only half-lived.

19 comments:

Alok said...

Like I used to, you are confusing two different concepts: Glee and Happiness.

The former is a fleeting feeling whereas the other is a state of Life.

Most intellectual people do lead a turbid life. However, that is simply another manifestation of balance in nature, or, as economists say, trade-off. It happens because they expect quite a lot out of themselves and/or are exasperated by the very low amount of structure and control that they can have on their own lives, which is what they value most in the external world.

Bertrand Russel contemplated suicide in his adolescence, only to be stopped by the beauty he discovered in Mathematics.

Happiness isn't in the same set as Wrath, Despair and Fear. Glee is. The cycle you mention that involves all of these is an essential part of Happiness.

Anty said...

It comes down to our understanding of the futility of the human condition. The more ignorant ones, those who shall not have as much knowledge will let themselves feel the full force of every emotion they experience.

And then there are those who by virtue of being intellectual will ponder upon the inherent use of these emotions and find that only happiness may be worth it.

Perhaps, it is the instinctual happiness that we seek.

Anushka said...

I agree with pretty much all of it except that happiness is over-RATED. A life entirely happy is not worth it. That I'll give you. But not only does that not happen; the interludes of real, undistilled happiness seem like the only states worth attaining and striving for.

And that can only be achieved if, as you said, you've gone through the test of fire. So considering a life of happiness alone would be pointless, even in hypothesis.

mgeek said...

Deep.

Srishti said...

Sachhi baat boli! One needs to experience every emotion. You gotta be bad to be good, right? But sometimes, doesn't it feel like that all the mistakes you make ultimately, regardless of the time, make you reach to one destination, that is success.
In the same way, wouldn't one expect to go through all emotions to reach to happiness, a feeling of happiness or contentment maybe?

Sherry Wasandi said...

@Alok: You are right. I do not draw a distinction between Glee and Happiness. But instead of it being confusion, it is a choice. A logical choice that I make, by insisting that the two are the same. If it suits your tastes more, think of it as taking happiness and glee to be the subsets of the superset that is Happiness. It is that very all-inclusive "Happiness" that I speak of here.

Also, being in control of your own life has little bearing on the matter. People have either an internal or external locus of control. It is only when they are in a position that is akin to the opposite of their state of preference, that it might be a valid cause. Otherwise, even those who have a staunchly placed internal locus of control are equally unhappy, if not more. Because then, their lack of it also centers around helplessness, the cause of which cannot be traced.

However, I would like to thank you for the link. Though I have always viewed Bertrand Russel with the utmost skepticism (often doubt and exasperation), the quotes did give me more to think about. Byronic unhappiness has been one of my long-held obsessions. Will post more on that, later.

Also, I don't equate Glee to Wrath, Despair and Fear. I take them to be quite different and distinct concepts, and to group them together would be a logical anomaly in my view of things.

Sherry Wasandi said...

@Anty: I understand that the less ignorant ones often choose to adopt stoicism to suit their purposes. But I also see that the more ignorant ones fail to value the intensity that these emotions offer. The wealth of human experience is lost on them.

Sherry Wasandi said...

@Anushka: Agreed.
However, I feel that all states of being are equally conspicuous in their absence. Not just happiness.

@mgeek: *bows*

Sherry Wasandi said...

@Srishti: Yes. You, are very very right about the implications of relativity in the matter. Only, I think that a feeling of happiness or contentment is not the destination. All emotion is of great value, and I find the bias in the pursuit of happiness alone, to be a fatal mistake.

Alok said...

So the central idea behind the post is that Happiness shouldn't be The Goal?

I tend to agree with this: Happiness is more of an effect than a cause. But the effect is unavoidable. And it only grows. Unless you deny it.

My earlier interpretation of this post was based on the idea that you were deprecating happiness. And although I speak only from experience, I can tell you that deliberately avoiding happiness is a cowardly act, and one of the gravest crimes you can commit against yourself.

I agree with your ideas on different external and internal lives; however, what I meant by "control" can be explained by the existentialist notion of life being inherently meaningless.

The notion searches for the purpose of life in a completely objective manner, or in the same manner you search for the purpose of things in the external world.

More specifically, intellectual people often want to have the same degree of control over their existence that they have over ideas or objects in the world.

Sherry Wasandi said...

@Alok: That's the exact cause-effect mixup I was talking about. A very generic error in all analytical logic.

I agree with your opinion that avoidance of happiness is a cowardly act. In fact, I think that the avoidance of any aforementioned emotion is cowardly.

I am not deprecating "Happiness". I am merely opining that it's touted for well more than its worth, at the cost of other equally relevant concepts.

life's like that said...

hii... read your post... well written.. though i have a few questions for you...
how is ignorance and intellect related to happiness? what is an "intellectual"? what do you mean by ignorance..?
which people, according to u attain happiness?
what I am trying to say is that happiness is a concept universal in nature but specific to every individual. I don't think it can be generalized. it may be true that analytical minds tend to over-think and spoil the moment, but as long as a person is wise in the ways of the world, one's ignorance or knowledge doesn't matter. what matters most is one's attitude towards the situations dished out to oneself in day to day life. even an intellectual can choose to be happy.

life's like that said...

hii... read your post... well written.. though i have a few questions for you...
how is ignorance and intellect related to happiness? what is an "intellectual"? what do you mean by ignorance..?
which people, according to u attain happiness?
what I am trying to say is that happiness is a concept universal in nature but specific to every individual. I don't think it can be generalized. it may be true that analytical minds tend to over-think and spoil the moment, but as long as a person is wise in the ways of the world, one's ignorance or knowledge doesn't matter. what matters most is one's attitude towards the situations dished out to oneself in day to day life. even an intellectual can choose to be happy.

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Stupidosaur said...

I am no gyani baba. I look at it simply.

Wrath, Despair, Fear, and maybe a whole lot of other things are not life enforcing. Socially , biologically or anyways.

Socially they only make u less capable of doing things, more inclined towards wreaking things and relationships, and on a super scale, lead to things like terrorism.

Biologically, these 'things' (Once again, I am no gyani baba. Don't care to distinguish feelings, emotions, states etc technically here :P) create stress chemicals in your body which make you immediately feel sick, lower your resistance to infections, accelerate aging and through all these reduce your chances of short term and long term survival. Happiness on the other hand
Also, these are created when there is something 'not right' going on with you, i.e. are indicators of problems.

On other hand, happiness is the result when things are going well. Further happiness has a healing and literally life enforcing quality biologically. Even amongst terminally ill patients, those who live happier have a longer survival data, as far as various 'studies' I have heard of are concerned.

What I am trying to say is, emotions are nature's control and feedback system. I sometimes even think if it is one of nature's techniques of active selection for evolution. A living being (including humans) would be happier if it is well suited to its environment. This lving being would live sturdier, happier, longer. On other hand a living being not well suited to its environment would feel all the stress emotions like the ones u mentioned. And the harmful effects of these itself would try to internally kill the creature. Thus more suited creature would more likely survive, even we level the playground of fatal external threats to the two creatures in comparison.

To give a crude analogy in engineering control systems, consider a heat seeking missile. Its correct path is where it is sensing heat. And if it is sensing good amount of heat in path it is following, it is most likely achieveing its purpose, going towards its target. The more it aligns in the correcy path and move towards the target, the more heat it will sense!

Similarly if a person is living the kind of life that should really be lived, he/she will be happy. The more right the life lived, more the happiness. And person should try to steer life where more happiness is sensed. That would ensure a happy and (other factors remaining same) and longer life.

I guess just like the missile, it has been put in our instincts to seek happiness. Happiness is the indicator nature has chosen for an organisms success I guess. It is the reward for a life well lived and the negative things are punishment of life less well lived and. Go for happiness!

Stupidosaur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sherry Wasandi said...

@Stupidosaur: You speak of a very "straight-edge" paradigm. In my experience, things aren't all that simplistic. I speak more of what is in the mind, than anything else.

I base my argument in a very primal concept of hedonism. I'm not talking about happiness(well-being). I'm talking about happiness(euphoria). The former variety is just not enough after a while. Like a drug you get used to. Sure, it makes you feel good. But what I am suggesting here is that the working word in the previous sentence is "feel", as opposed to "good". What I suggest further, is that the step up from it is not to "feel great", but to "feel more", and "feel strongly". And that's the kind of thing that captures your senses enough to be addictive.

Your points are very valid and logical. That's just not what I was talking about. Because the simplistic concept of happiness is no longer satisfying to me. I seek happiness potent enough to feel like a drug. (Without the troubles that come along.) I'm assuming, I'm not alone.

pankaj said...

nice post. to say the ultimate end of life is happiness, is a rather hollow statement. humans have a myriad of impulses, and the seeking of knowledge, and transcendent ideals(flesh seeks more than flesh)are amongst them. maybe it boils down to that seeming naive statement - life is about balance.

g said...

"With greater clarity, pain is experienced more harshly, more precisely and directly...the unwise feel pain as the stroke of a hair on the hand, but the wise feel pain as the stroke of a hair on the eye."

With the clarity quoted above and obviously the pain, you start feeling an utter need to simplify the things. As in planning well, focusing on a single task.

Is not coming to a point that you really don't paint your world with emotions but you have to manage them, better?

Wouldn't then happiness come down to your ability to deal and manage?