cultivating & crashing

an organic collection of notes, observations, and thoughts

Tag: suffering

On the triviality of happiness

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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I read an article last night on narrative (cite) that made some points that made me realize that the way we read and interpret stories is similar to the way we live our lives.
– filling gaps
– something I highlighted

Then I was writing my paper on the way death illustrates that which is important in life in biblical and talmudic stories. I don’t remember where I got this idea–I think it was the Yom Kippur sermon I heard a couple years ago–where the rabbi said that in order to live fully, we need to come to terms with our own death. I think this is right on. In order to do anything useful, it’s necessary that we understand our finite nature. Otherwise you don’t understand the value of time, nor can you realize the things than are of value to use your time for.

In Logicomix, there is a note about Schopenhauer saying that there’s nothing like death to humanize you. (Tim O’Brien says in The Things They Carried that proximity to death brings you closer to life. I think maybe Kerouac says something similar in On The Road. But I digress.) Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find where he (Schop.) makes this claim. Quite the contrary, I didn’t find much interesting complexity to his claim that death is the reprieve from our lives of suffering.

Mmm… why do I like this topic so much? I always always always come back to think about Sonny’s Blues, where life is suffering, and the point of life is to see what you can do with it. Me, I want to make it beautiful. That could be facile, though. At least, meaningful, worth the while. It will still always be sad, but suffering helps us feel. Makes us be human. Maybe that’s shitty, but it’s real. And real is better than illusion. tragedy is important and truth is beautiful even when it’s ugly by virtue of being truth.

Speaking of suffering, I’m off to lifting.

PS. Remind me to post my shtick on Logicomix on here.