Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Jim Styro's Meaning of Life: Part One

(or - More on the whole "happiness thing")

As the Dude once said: "My thinking about this case had become very uptight."

Last night as I wrote the over-commitment post, I felt my focus was drifting. I had one other nearly finished post in the hopper - and a bunch of unfinished stuff that didn't seem to fit together - but no sense of where things were headed or what I would write next.

But then my wife, the lovely Snoplum (aka the Middle-Aged Woman), posted the following comment:

It's not that I see NO value, it's just that I see no value as great as your happiness/contentment. Sweet, but true. Oh, and not too weak, too kind.
And quickly, the whole thing seemed to come into focus. I knew where the plane was headed - even if its only good engine would take it no farther than the scene of the crash (a half hour before the paramedics would arrive).* Boys & girls: we are on a mission to uncover the Meaning Of Life (MOL - according to Styro). Discussions of happiness, expectations, honesty, relationships and faith loom on the horizon as we get this whole thing figured out.

Let's review the ground we've covered so far, shall we:

1. The road to unhappiness is paved with unmet expectations.
2. High achievement requires high expectations.
3. High achievement requires focusing of energy and attention.
4. Long-term relationships have a unique value for which there is no substitute.
5. There does not appear to be any direct relationship between how much a person does and how happy (or unhappy) they are.
6. I can be a real d*ck sometimes.

I'm not sure that last point really fits into the whole "meaning of life" discussion - but it may be extremely helpful to you later on when considering whether or not I'm completely full of sh*t.)

I think our next stop on the road towards the MOL involves additional scrutiny of the whole "happiness thing". Clearly, most people think happiness is important in life. The country where I live is founded on the idea that all people should have the right to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. I have emphasized the word "pursuit" as a reminder that the Declaration of Independence does not presume a right to happiness itself - just the pursuit of it.

I will go further to say: The goal of understanding what makes you happy - and how to do those things, to let yourself be happy - is not to be happy all the time. I think anyone with the insight to figure out the what and how of happiness also knows that happiness has its limitations. I certainly believe happiness should be valued - even sought after (although I suspect that happiness flees from those who seek for it too vigorously; in many cases, they didn't realize that the ingredients for happiness were close at hand - and probably within).

But if a person felt constantly happy, how would they know what happiness was? It wouldn't need a name; it would just be called "The Way I Feel All The Time".

Take care.

* apologies to Ron White


Middle Aged Woman said...

"although I suspect that happiness flees from those who seek for it too vigorously; in many cases, they didn't realize that the ingredients for happiness were close at hand - and probably within"

Hey! I remember a movie like that. It featured small people in strange costumes.

I thought we were going to learn what makes YOU happy.

Jim Styro said...

Who cares about that?

Oh, alright...I'll try to work it in somewhere. As if I didn't have enough ground to cover with the whole Meaning Of Life thing!

historymike said...

Crap - I thought the meaning of life was 42.

historymike said...

Whoops - I forgot the link to 42 being the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Carry on.

Jim Styro said...

Mikey: 42 just isn't working for me. I need something more substantial.

Middle Aged Woman said...

Like 43?

Sprite's Keeper said...

I've always thought that permanently happy people are either highly deluded or just have their standards set too low. Or maybe they're hiding the fact that they're not happy. Luckily I do not fall into that category. Snarky people can never fall into that category.

Jim Styro said...

SK: It's like you read my mind! Or have you been skipping ahead in the textbook?

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