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