Happiness and Meaningness
Last Updated: 2019-08-08 18:04

I used to think that happiness was pretty important. Now, though, it looks like I didn't do a good job of figuring out exactly what 'happiness' was about. (Yes, I know, Philosophy 101. Spare me, though, pretty please?)

SquirrelInHell has a good post about how happiness isn't even what people really want, and I think I'm now more inclined to agree. It's not the wireheading thing; rather, it seems like sometimes I don't really...find myself inclined to seek out happiness in and of itself? But, also, yes, the wireheading thing.

So, as an alternative, there's been a whole bunch of buzz lately about this cool 'meaning' thing. Some things have more 'weight' than others. This quality affects how we recollect memories (is it the meaningful or the happy moments that are indelible?) and what we chase after.

Narrative, for all that it acts like crack for the human soul, is, um, important because it acts like crack for the human soul. There's something captivating about these cycles of conflict, loss, ascension, and acceptance. I had a recent conversation with a friend about how some of his most enjoyable activities were ones where only brief respites of triumph and happiness surged amidst a sea of contemplation and struggle.

(There's the immediate pattern-match to getting hit on a head with a truncheon here, but stay with me here.)

It might seem that, given the relative nature of our brains, having some amount of loss is important to better feel the highs. But that's also not exactly it! It's like I would seek out conflict and problems as a fun activity, in and of itself. There's something about surmounting challenges that's just...how it is.

It's more like...what do you even want?

  1. You could do things to be happy.
  2. But then people complain about not doing something meaningful.
  3. You could do something meaningful. But the Mission can fade, and in time you're back to feeling unsatisfied.
  4. Do you cycle back to 1 to preserve your ego?
  5. Is it treadmills all the way down?
  6. These are all just abstractions over the Actual Human Thing, which is messy. Any model here seems like it'd be descriptive at best. ("If there was an answer to this question, what would it look like?" is a recent favorite question of mine to ask.)