On the triviality of happiness

by Sofia

I just listened to this episode called Say No to Happiness on CBC Ideas. The quality of the discourse (save for the silly woman at the beginning) was great. It was an interesting mix of science, theology/religion, philosophy and critical thinking without announcing itself like that. The result is really smart people talking about something quite personal in a way that makes you want to thank evolution for having given us the wonderful gift of intellect.

Moreover, it makes me feel better about not being happier and makes it clear why I can stop worrying about sacrificing focusing on happiness in order to get important shit done instead. Feeling happiness and cultivating a meaningful life are two very different pursuits, and one is clearly more important and fulfilling that the other.

It also comforts me for crying instead of “being happy” at times when beautiful things happen; it resonates with the idea that I’m experiencing those things on a more powerful level than if they simply made me feel balmy and smiley.

In sum, life is often tragic. It’s healthy to respond to life with a wide range of different emotional states (that’s why we have them). And there is much to be said for the absence of mindfulness. Like the weasel in Dillard’s story suggests, maybe the best we can do is know what we want and devote all our strength to it. Justice is not fought for, change is not sought after, and creativity does not produce out of contentedness; these things necessitate indignant anger, tension, and inequities to happen. Suffering is more important than we give it credit for.

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