This section of preaching is directed at me rather than you, but I want to write it publicly to force myself to make sense. I’ll probably include some irrelevant music or photos with each post to distract you in case you get bored – this one’s the first big win of 2011’s adventure into the music other people discovered in 2010.
I spend my downtime in life analysing things, trying to identify comprehensible systems and figure out ways to beat them. Then I forget again. So this is a notebook of that stuff.
It’s what got me interested in philosophy, but since uni, my interest has shifted to the more practical consequences of it. It’s not hard to figure out the meaning of life, it’s harder to figure out how to pursue it. Hence, Advice.
The meaning of life is there isn’t one, which is to say there isn’t one other than the obvious one, which is to say be happy.
It gets clearer if you think about what you’d want for your kids: you might want them to have kids themselves, but that really only gets you back to the drawing board a few decades closer to the destruction of the planet. What you probably want, overall, is for them to be happy. Apart from anything, it’d make you happy.
It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that some people have written a bit about how to pursue happiness, but a lot of it trips over a pretty basic hurdle at the starting line. We’ve noticed we are happy when we get things we wanted – love, money, sex, kids, shoes – and concluded this stuff is related. Or we’ve noticed we are unhappy when we can’t get things we want, and concluded we should stop wanting things.
At the heart of it there’s an assumption that we want what’ll make us happy, with a certain margin of error for when things aren’t what we expected. We think we’re almost rational that way, wanting things because of the happiness they’ll bring, or our estimation thereof. We are way, way off.
This won’t sound terribly profound, but we just want shit. It just happens. It’s not a decision, it’s a set of drives built into us by evolution to ensure we survive and reproduce whether it’ll make us happy or not. The desire to have kids has nothing to do with any felicific calculus about the happiness and sadness they’d bring, in the same way that hunger isn’t a judgment about how enjoyable food would be. Other desires that are less primal stem from these, usually via power, safety and status.
The upshot is: your brain, gut, heart, genitalia, and whatever other organs you want to assign desires to, are not trying to make you happy. When they say they want something – whether it’s true love or a breakfast burrito – it doesn’t mean they’ll thank you for it. And the question of how to make yourself happy has really very little to do with getting what you want. These posts will be about what it does relate to, and sometimes how.