Consciousness & happiness

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Skip the car!

"If you think you'd be happier with a new car, skip the car and just be happier."

Easy for Joan Tollifson to say. For me, happiness is too elusive a target to "just be." Note the Declaration doesn't say that our inalienable right is to be happy, just to pursue it.

Good thing too. Like the end of the rainbow (pot o' gold or not), happiness recedes as I chase it. I don't usually quote Jiddu Krishnamurti (his personal morality just being too out of whack with his teaching), but I find his observation, "To have a cause for joy is no longer joy" to be accurate. I'm happy until I notice I'm happy. And then?

And then one of several things happen:
* Damn, this ice cream tastes good. Too bad it's going to be over soon.
* We spent so much on getting here, shouldn't I be feeling happier than I am?
* This feels so good. Wish I'd done it before.
* What a sunset! Almost as good as yesterday's!
* and etc.

We are not built for chronic happiness. Why not? Because, to a first approximation, our brains evolved during the Pleistocene epoch. Here's the scenario, one million BC:

Ug wakes up, walks out of the cave filled with joy--what a day! Goes down to the clearing and sits, zoned out his skull with utter contentment. Life just couldn't be better. Bliss! And gets eaten by the passing sabertooth.

Bug, meanwhile, and the rest of the tribe, are worried about where they should hunt so the whole tribe (less Ug) can eat. And with the waterhole drying up, where's the nearest water source? Anxiety is the order of the day. But they do survive, and reproduce, and we're the result. We're not designed to be content--we've got Bug's anxiety-prone genes. We worry and we're unhappy because our genes tell us to be, because that's what allowed our stone-age ancestors to survive and reproduce.

All of which is a great relief. What, me worry? Of course! I'm supposed to!

"We spend at least half our lives in either physical or emotional discomfort, yet we persist in believing that happiness is our natural, normal condition and that when were not happy, we're not normal." --Geneen Roth


  • My new favorite blog. Don't stop.

    By Anonymous Jennie, at March 06, 2006  

  • Cannot more agree about the happiness or rather the unhappiness...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 13, 2006  

  • Sometimes I find that when things aren't going as expected I can run a panoply of emotions, yet on some wonderful occasions during these emotions I ask myself "are you unhappy?" and I find that even though I'm feeling miserable, I'm also happy.
    I propose happiness is a variation of Love (sourced in the heart (chakra) (as I suspect is the experience of beauty), and that these are not emotions but manifestations of some other independent brain/mind state (of consciousness or unconsciousness or any other alternative).

    By Anonymous seehker, at June 16, 2006  

  • Your are Excellent. And so is your site! Keep up the good work. Bookmarked.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 12, 2006  

  • Hi! Just want to say what a nice site. Bye, see you soon.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 17, 2006  

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