It’s 7am, Sunday morning and I’m sitting-up in bed looking through the wall of glass in front of me onto a beautiful blue sky, albeit through slightly dirty glass reminding me it’s time to clean the massive expanse.
What appears to be developing into a spectacular autumn day in Sydney should bring a sense of excitement – what wonderful things will I do today? Where can I go to enjoy the lovely weather? But it just so happens that I’ve woken up in a bad mood which is turning into a depressive mood.
Oh damn, another beautiful day will pass me by and I’m depressed.
If I stay at home today I’ll just get more depressed but I’m in such a bad mood I can’t bring myself to go anywhere or do anything – it’s a catch 22 situation. So I complain to MOTH whose quick reply is – “you’ll never be happy!”
Is he right? Will I never be happy?
As I contemplate this announcement, I try and articulate what happiness is – my version of happiness. “Mmmm well, um, well it’s about being happy!”
Obviously I can’t quite articulate what happiness is for me. So I’ll refer to the dictionary.
- The quality or state of being happy.
“Durrr, I knew that.”
- One having good fortune; pleasure; joy and contentment.
“Does this suggest that if one achieves good fortune, pleasure, joy and contentment that lifelong happiness can be achieved?”
“Ok, so let’s take a closer look at each of these attributes of happiness”.
According to the online dictionary, “luck” is a contributing attribute to good fortune. Many people believe that luck is something that materializes from the cosmos (aka nowhere) or that luck comes about by chance. Someone who wins the lottery is considered lucky but you can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket, so luck really doesn’t have anything to do winning the lottery.
I don’t believe in luck by chance and one certainly can’t achieve good fortune based on luck alone. Good fortune comes about by hard work, then the so-called ‘good luck’ follows. I guess I consider myself to be fortunate in some aspects of my life but my good fortune hasn’t come about by luck, it’s come about by hard work and doing lots of things that don’t give me pleasure, joy or contentment. At least not for any considerable periods of time worth noting.
One could also say luck plays a part in good health. I on the other hand attribute good health to environmental and evolutionary factors. I’m a proponent of Charles Darwin’s natural selection – a natural process resulting in the evolution of organisms best adapted to the environment. I guess I could be considered lucky that so far I’ve adapted to my environment – but time will tell I guess.
One can’t expect lasting happiness predicated on good fortune. Realistic people know that good fortune can be lost in an instant. Successful people go broke because of reasons outside their control. One’s assumed good health can be turned upside down with one visit to a Doctor. When good fortune turns bad, you’ll inevitably hear people say how unlucky you are.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I certainly feel pleasure regularly. I get pleasure from spending time with family and friends, enjoying a meal, watching a good movie or spending a summer’s day at the beach but pleasure isn’t a sustainable feeling and just around the pleasurable corner pain is lurking.
Pleasure can turn to pain if there is an unpleasant occurrence, a wrong word used in conversation, a not so pleasant mood. Many pleasurable moments lead to pain. Athletes get pleasure from their chosen sport but many suffer pain from injuries or losses.
Pleasure and pain, although these two feelings may be polar opposites, they are very much related by the pure fact that one can very easily follow the other – pleasure then pain and alternatively pain then pleasure.
Personally I’m not a big fan of the word joy and I certainly don’t recall joy lasting long enough for me to feel an overwhelming sense of happiness. Joy is certainly not a feeling that lives on it’s own, joy accompanies other feelings. For example, I get pride and joy from watching my grandkids accomplish new skills. Laughter follows the joy of listening to a good joke.
The online dictionary attributes joy with bliss and delight. I associate bliss with the accumulation of several feelings at one time emanating in a ‘high’ or the feeling of ‘bliss’. It’s a momentary high – could last seconds or minutes and if you’re exceptionally lucky maybe a few hours. Delight and joy are interchangeable words resulting in very similar feelings both not lasting long, certainly not long enough to attribute to lasting happiness.
And lastly there is contentment
My research suggests that contentment can be achieved from gratification or being comfortable, secure and confident in oneself – a sense of inner peace. That’s very well and good, we’ve all had these feelings at some point in our lives, but can contentment last?
I believe contentment to be a sense of accomplishment that one has achieved in life. When one can say, “I’m happy where I live, how I live and what I’m doing now”. I would love to sing that tune with a warm and fuzzy feeling of “life’s great”. But alas, lifelong contentment is illusive and therefore begs the question – does it exist?
I’ve never been and probably won’t ever achieve lasting contentment. Maybe I’m being overly dramatic, I have felt contentment on many occasions but like good fortune, pleasure and joy, contentment is a feeling with a use-by-date, or for the unlucky ones like me, a use-by-time.
I can’t help but wonder if I’m alone with these short lived feelings?
According to most professors of evolutionary psychology humans evolved to: one, not get killed; two, not be rejected by those around; and three, to accumulating as much of value as possible. Therefore good fortune, pleasure, joy and contentment from our ancestor’s point of view would inevitably be short lived because at any moment they would certainly be fighting for survival.
The fight for survival is still evident today, albeit the dangers aren’t the same as what our ancestors faced but any lasting pleasurable feelings are short lived because man’s evolutionary wiring remains the same even though our living conditions have evolved.
Personally I get comfort from these findings and I conclude that eternal happiness is unattainable at this point of time in human evolution, so searching for it is as pointless as searching for the holy grail.
On the bright side, I can now reply to MOTH’s “you’ll never be happy” with a confident “and neither will you”!