The topic of happiness has been on my mind lately, and so I’d like to spend the next two blog posts discussing its purpose in appreciating everyday life.
Small, quiet elements of the human experience confuse me far more than they should. Why do 20% of people, myself included, automatically sneeze when they go out into the sun? What is with people’s obsessive fascination with finding beauty in symmetrical faces and patterns? And why do people continue to imagine doing repetitive tasks long after they’re done?
Then there are the things that move beyond simple curiosities and can cause real negative effects in society. To me, one of the most egregious of these is the human nature to shoot down the happiness of others.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, or this has become such a part of daily life where you don’t even notice when it happens, I urge you to keep an ear to the ground on the daily conversations surrounding you. Listen to the ebb and flow of discourse when one person mentions a truly positive event in their life that makes them happy. Unless the other person has specifically trained themselves to take joy in the happiness of others, their automatic instinct is normally to attempt to balance the scales and introduce negative repercussions into the circumstances of the happy person.
These vocal landmarks are easy to spot, as they often start with some variation of the following:
“Well you know…”
“Actually I’ve heard…”
The one I’ve had the most experience with?
“Don’t get your hopes up.”
Why shouldn’t someone get their hopes up? Hope is the only thing I’ve ever found that can wake you back to life after a devastating event. Hope for the future drives a society towards improvements in art, technology, and social standard of living. On a personal level, hope brings into focus every goal I have for making the world a better place.
Maybe I’m the odd person out, and perhaps I’m far too optimistic for this world. However, nothing indicates that happiness works on the principle of economies of scale like goods, services, or even romantic relationships. Instead, happiness is an intrinsic value based on how one reacts to their circumstances.
The trouble is, though happiness is not a scarce resource (meaning there is only so much that can go around), it is still a rare one. A great many people in modern society live a life of misery, be it from a lack of community, being over-stressed from work, or missing critical pieces of fundamental personal truth. Since misery is so common, the compulsion is to attack happiness in other people for being unrealistic – there is a reason, after all, the aphorism “misery loves company” is so commonly dropped in conversation.
Maturity comes, then, in learning from how that person has achieved happiness, rather than rebuking it out of hand. Get them to tell their whole story, and listen closely for small elements of their journey you can use to find happiness yourself.
There is one outlier that deserves its own exploration, however. Later in the week I’ll be looking into why you should find happiness in other people’s success – a very bold suggestion to introduce in 21st century society. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about what you find makes you happy, be they big or little things. Let’s start a conversation down in the comments!
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