What is happiness?

A book I was reading (Geography of Bliss), made me really think about this. Here is a passage that made me stop, close the book, and sit in contemplation.

“[Philosopher, Robert Nozick], devised a thought experiment called the Experience Machine… Imagine that “superduper neuropsychologists” have figured out a way to stimulate a person’s brain in order to induce pleasurable experiences. It’s perfectly safe, no chance of a malfunction, and not harmful to your health. You would experience constant pleasure for the rest of your life. Would you do it? Would you plug into the Experience Machine?

If not, argued, Nozick, then you’ve just proved that there is more to life than pleasure. We want to achieve our happiness and not just experience it. Perhaps we even want to experience unhappiness, in order to truly appreciate happiness.” -copyright Eric Weiner/Geography of Bliss

So, would you plug into the Experience Machine? My immediate answer, before even finishing the paragraph in the book, was “No”. It was instinctual and I was puzzled by this answer until I finished the paragraph. Yes, he’s right. I want to feel unhappiness at times, and I want to achieve happiness on my own. I don’t want it artificially. Isn’t this, in part, the reason I stopped taking anti-depressants? Everyone told me to stay on my medication but I knew I couldn’t live like that. I felt numb and robotic. That wasn’t happiness because I knew deep down I hadn’t earned it.

And so, this gives perspective to the unhappy moments in life. It’s so easy to think, “If only I had this or that, I would be happy.” This or that can be many things. It could be money, a career, a college degree, a talent, a body type, a lover, children, a bigger home, a car, or even something as simple as a particular pair of shoes … but as we work towards acquiring these things in life, it’s funny how we never realize that whatever we had been striving for, once in our possession, is simply replaced by something else.

Part of happiness is simply enjoying the pursuit of that happiness. If everything you ever wanted was simply handed to you, how happy would your life really be?

“It’s not having what you want
It’s wanting what you’ve got.” ~ Sheryl Crow/Soak up the Sun



Filed under About me, books, culture, depression, gratitude, positive thinking

4 responses to “Happiness

  1. Wow that gave me chills. What he is describing seems to be what drug addicts want right? The crack/heroine gives a sense of high… a feeling of invincibility of being supremely insightful etc?

    But I dont know… maybe I dont want to be on a high all the time… but I think I would like to be happpy and satisfied and content… with a better attitude towards the world. I remember when I had such an attitude when I was a teenager and eevn though horrible things happened my attitude was great…

    Maybe attitude is different than feeling happy?

  2. We need the downs to appreciate the ups! You know what I mean?

  3. pol

    It is so TRUE! I try to embrace every terrible awful thing that has happened to me as much as every blissful, wonderful experience — these are the things that define my life and who I am!

  4. well said…very well said.

    Love the new digs!! Merry Christmas!

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