Thursday, 11 August 2011

Hello, Lost Property Office? Have you found any happiness recently?

I have a big file of all these experimental techniques and points of view I've been imposing on myself and documenting. This one, however, I think, will be the strangest of all. You see, I have realised in this life that my own happiness has never come as a result of me actively acting in some way - though I have mood-swings for the better, my natural state is quite a depressive one. In fact, as of now (the past few weeks), it is pretty much an anhedonic one. What I have acquired in all my years of searching for the unattainable, is simply the perspective that maybe happiness shouldn't be my main goal. In fact, maybe it shouldn't be my goal at all. Now this doesn't seem logical when you look at it first, but in depth, you'll see why I'm going to begin this experiment. You see, the innate drive for happiness (or more appropriately, the avoidance of suffering), is one so deeply ingrained into us that we think it an actual part of ourselves - like our personality, almost. Except, as I've talked about a bit here, there is no purely rational reason for one following that drive. But given this framework: that being happy is something that is most often the end-all of most activities, and that as a person, you believe that happiness must be a fundamental part of your existence, one can say that searching for happiness is rational provided that is said EXCEPT in one special case. My case. I'll get to that soon. Now when the strange scenario arises in which happiness is unattainable, or at least, comes at random points when one is not expecting it - when the search for happiness does not actually do anything at all, what does one do? Now there is some research suggesting that we can't actually change how happy we are, but if you don't trust that, then you can simply search for happiness, believing that you will attain it. And what's the harm? Except for the lost time, no one loses much by assuming they can find happiness. Except, again, for people like me. For me, not only is lasting happiness something I find to be unattainable, so the search is rendered futile, but moreover, the search actually pains me - it frustrates me to search for something and come back empty-handed each and every day. So in this case, if I really want to achieve my goal of being happier, I actually have to give up that very same goal! It seems a little absurd, really. But still, most of my previous experiments have been failures, so don't expect too much from this. One of the joys - or not actually, of being anhedonic is that everything conveys the exact same amount of pleasure to me: zero. So maybe, if things go well here, I can finally get some work done! Yippee!


  1. The best bet is to find projects that you can immerse yourself in and find a form of self-dissolution. "Happiness is absoprtion" as TE Lawrence said. The good news is that one day we'll be absorbed back into the void!

  2. Damn right Karl, damn right. One thing I often wonder is whether anyone really likes themself - I mean, whether anyone really enjoys being conscious of their surroundings. The numerous forms of escapism available (that almost everyone indulges in) seem to paint a different picture. If you want an update on the experiment, so far, I'm finding that days are going by far quicker than usual. Though I don't have as many moments of happiness, the sadness that comes after them doesn't really exist either. And as you know, the more time wasted, the quicker we die.

  3. Parfit deals with this within a larger discussion on self-defeating philosophies in Reasons and Persons - concluding that pursuing happiness can be a self-defeating philosophy.

    The Rawls scholar Barbara Herman makes the distinction between goals and purposes. Playing a board game with friends, your goal is to win - the game won't be fun unless you try to win. But the purpose - the reason you play - is to have fun (or something).

    The problem with life is . . . there are no purposes, only goals.