Onward to Happiness Research! Maybe there is hope for me yet! I have some ability at several things, but I’m not sure maximizing happiness has ever been one of them. I’m happy enough, I think, but I get a distinct impression that others are happier, even after factoring in that part of the game is fooling other people into thinking that you are happier than you actually are. I have three thoughts about happiness. Or at least only three for now.

1)      My inclination is to think happiness is more or less evolution’s sporadic Pavlov Food Pellet, designed to keep you in the game. Not an IV drip.

2)      Recommendations on how to increase happiness are intrinsically suspect. I think the hard-wired aspect of it is a higher percentage than people want to acknowledge, and some of the prescriptions are just unworkable. There’s the “religious people are happier” conundrum of growing up to realize that many of the things they told you as a kid about this subject are just highly implausible. And the same holds true for adulthood in general. The use of adult foresight to see what you ought to be doing for yourself, your family and your community is just more complicated than a fun-filled idyll. Responsibility can be a drag.

3)      Returning to that ‘fooling others about how happy you are’ thing, I think we’ve about reached the limits on this particular gambit. Somewhere along the way it became almost mandatory to act happy, like, all the time. I don’t think that’s really a healthy way to look at things. It’s too high a standard to try to meet, and while I don’t want to walk through a world of perpetual grousers, a little more public angst and brooding might be a more honest, interesting environment. And certainly would take some of the pressure off the need to project unvarying contentment. Might facilitate an arts and poetry revival too.   

Tom Toles