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Happiness, as a way of life

Sleepy Head
I've been meaning to discuss some aspects of my way of life, for quite some time now. This isn't an attempt at explaining myself, in the sense of apologizing, far from it, but rather in the sense of trying to make more sense, both to myself, and to others. Having to delve into this and write it down forces me to think about it, and might inspire others to give me further bits of wisdom. It might also cut down on the number of explanations I have to provide, by allowing me to point at the appropriate posts (heh!). As always, the disclaimer applies, more than ever before, I think. Let's start with something simple (or at least, should be)...

My goal in life is to be happy.

Some people will disagree, oddly enough (but they have their own reasons, sometimes even quite good). But that's how simple it goes for me.

It's also very selfish. I do not (directly) care about the happiness of others in the world. I don't aim to destroy their happiness either. Actively making other people unhappy is unpleasant to me, providing a nice safety in the form of a strange loop. While I definitely have no proof of this, a naive impression that I get out of this is that if everyone would do this, the world would be quite a decent place.

There's some people which helping being happy gets me happier. This could be called caring. They also seem to experience the same effect with some other people, so there are kind of circles of people, where I care more and more about their happiness, peaking at myself. But at the end of the day, my happiness wins.

This sounds like it is ridiculously insensitive, at times, but you'd be surprised at how hard being happy is a difficult job, sometimes, and how much I have to work at it. I just can't spare this much effort for everyone, it would result in such dilution that there would be nothing left at the end.

Another thing which makes it not so evil is that I once discovered that you have to empower yourself to truly be happy. Someone else can't really "make" you happy. Happiness forged of your own making is both much stronger (I thought I was happy before, and I learned better!) and more durable (no one can take yourself away from you!). So, really, if other people want to be truly happy as well, they'll have to do it themselves anyway, I can't do it for them! One can be shown the path, but he has to walk the path himself, or something like that...

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
gregorama
Mar. 13th, 2006 05:47 am (UTC)
It's remarkable that we share so many perspectives but haven't hung out more. I know you're busy with the upcoming relocation but if you ever just want to stop by for a beer on your way home from work give me a call.
pphaneuf
Mar. 13th, 2006 05:51 am (UTC)
Sure thing, I've done it in the past, might do it again! :-)
messiahdivine
Mar. 13th, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC)
My mother calls me the most selfish person in the world. My ex-husband always called me the least selfish person he knew. My goal has always been to be "happy" but because I don't really acknowledge/undestand/believe in the outside world (outside of my own head) sometimes people read my actions with either annoyance (like my mother - though hers is tinged with jealousy) or respect (because they see me doing good things not out of any moral obligation, or compensation, or anything other than I "feel like it").

My entire goal/purpose in life is to be happy. Because I don't *really* believe in anything else.

taxlady
Mar. 13th, 2006 09:01 pm (UTC)
I don't see it as selfish. How the hell are you so supposed to make someone else happy, if you aren't happy? Let other people be inspired to make themselves happy by watching your example.
jaramin
Mar. 14th, 2006 05:04 am (UTC)
As you know, I'm on the complete opposite of this spectrum. Here are some reasons why, some of which I deem personal, others more objective, if only to contribute to your personal reflexions :

- Even if the world was to be a very nice place, with everyone happy as the result of them focusing on being happy themselves, I would feel horrible and would not want of it. I would in fact hate it. Genuine care is what makes it possible to be considered as an end in itself and not a mean. I do not deem it worthy, interesting, or whatever to live as only a mean.

- If being happy has to be *the* axiological principle, then one would be at lack to criticize, even recognize, phenomenas of domination. Orwell's 1984 comes to mind. For that not to be, liberty must be on the same grounds than happiness.

- As a corolary to the previous point, I think one aught to substitute welfare to being happy, at the very least.

- There is no questionning that what makes one happy might make another unhappy. If there are no axiological principles on par with happiness, then there is no principled reason for someone to "remove" the cause of unhappiness, ie, to kill, if that has no ill effects that would put the person worse off. One here cannot argue that such a situation would not arise given laws or other restraints, for as long as these are not necessitated and are only contingencies, one must accept that such a killing is defendable in principle. All you are left with then is will to power.

- The idea that by striving for other's well being in addition to our own eludes us and can only lead to failure because of systemic unpredictability and complexity, and that if everyone cared properly about themselves things would sort themselves out for the best possible outcome, is in fact an economic principle championned by Adam Smith. It has laid the basis for today's capitalistic globalization and all the horrors produced by it. It has failed.

I'll take the opportunity to tell you that I do agree with most of your previous post however strange that might seem :P
pphaneuf
Mar. 14th, 2006 08:27 am (UTC)
I did mention that some people might disagree, with some even having very good reasons. You could be falling in that category!

I'm a pretty harsh abstractionist, so to me, for example, I just wouldn't be happy without welfare, so I can bare down to the essentials, without really skipping it.

I also happen to value freedom, but at a slightly lower degree. Restricting my liberty would definitely restrict my happiness, but some people seems to be willing to exchange some of their freedoms in return for other things, and if they are happier that way, I cannot prevent them from making that decision (note that making the decision is important, otherwise they are just being restricted without any way out if they are not happy that way).

For example, I prefer free software, because as a software developer, I am empowered to use the freedom given to me to fix problems I encounter myself. But for a "normal user", I would understand that giving away that freedom in exchange for a piece of software that will work to their satisfaction would probably make them happier than giving away their sanity struggling with a oh-so-free-and-better-for-the-world software. I just happen to think that in the long run, with enough people like me fixing all those things, non-free software simply cannot resist, and one will at some point just be happier with the free software, all around. It'll be great, and there'll be some little birdies singing and all, so cute, I tell you. But not now. :-)

I do have other principles operating my life than just this quest for happiness (for example, that "my freedom ends at the tip of my neighbour's nose"). But they're not very complicated, overall, and is characterized by emergent complexity, rather than implicit complexity.

This takes me to the last point, which I am a bit split upon. I am, rather weirdly, a huge fan of globalization! What? I'm pure evil? Well, no, not exactly! I dream of a world where people work together to achieve greater goals. Working together means taking the resources in one place, and sending them where there is cheaper labour, and make those who have money pay for it, propagating the wealth across the board. True globalization would be level the playing field, making us first-worlders poorer, but this would only be in fairness, as it would bring third-worlder to the same level. This, though, requires a true globalization, which isn't possible in the current context (and the globalization we're seeing is actually making it even less fair), so I suppose it has to be fought.

Ironically, true globalization is blocked because we aren't global enough. If a third-world country where we send work (and money) to decides to up the prices to get closer to the market price (which is what it should have been all along, according to the original principles of capitalism, if I recall), the money will go away.

If you take another example, that of a true cost economy, where a liter of petrol would cost, to the consumer, what it actually costs (including such things as environmental effects), it would throttle back down the consumption of such damaging goods, because their damaging nature would make them appropriately expensive and unaffordable. But if Canada, for example, decided to put in taxes on such things to cover for the true costs, investments would desert the country, and we'd then be left with taxes that no one would pay, because no one would have the money to pay for petrol. The economy would collapse, quite simply, because we do not have a true global economy.

Europe is catching on to that, with the European Union, the Schengen zone and so on, but it is difficult work that has to be done very carefully. Also, worldwide pacts such as the Kyoto Protocol is another way where these things can start happening.

Capitalism isn't dead yet, what's causing problem is all sorts of old and crummy protectionism. This reeks of 18th century France policies! But things move very slowly. Remember that democracy is still very young, and it really got started 2500 years ago!
pphaneuf
Mar. 14th, 2006 08:27 am (UTC)
(LJ decided I was writing a bit too much, here!)

When it comes down to it, I'm more of an anarchist, but I learn to work within the system, and the free-wheeling capitalist system actually allows one to express some anarchist values, if you look at it the right way. And we won't get there overnight, it'll be a progressive change, so I think this is really the only way of getting there.

Anyway, I do respect your way of action. It takes of every kind, and you're clearly not evil, so I applaud you!
pphaneuf
Mar. 14th, 2006 08:29 am (UTC)
This is why, for example, I'm the type to vote NDP rather than Green or some of the "stronger" parties and candidates. I see NDP as having a chance, and once it gets established and gets things moving, then we can use that as a stepping stone for something a bit further along.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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