Happiness is an important subject. So important that the right to the pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. (Note — the Declaration does not guarantee happiness itself, only the right to chase after it. Many other countries have recognized this as a right as well.)
The way I see it, happiness is like a campfire. If you add more wood, the fire burns brighter (happier). If you take some out, the fire diminishes (less happy). But if you do nothing at all, the fire tapers off anyway, meaning you have to find new, happy events just to stay in the same place. Like the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland.
But what is it, and how does it relate to the purpose of life?
But what exactly is happiness? Happiness consists of three components: Feeling good. Helping others. And achieving your goals.
These items fit together in what I call a why-how relationship: Why do we try to feel good? To be happy. Why do we help others? To be happy. Why do we want to achieve goals? To be happy. And how do we get to be happy? By feeling good, helping others, and achieving our goals.
Of these three components, which is the most important? That’s up to you — you decide what proportion of each is right.
Because of ongoing heart problems, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt really good. I want to be seen as a kind and helpful person, but many people I’ve approached don’t want my help — they just want me to go away. So that leaves achieving my goals — and a major goal of mine is to become a great teacher, like Gandhi or Erhard, showing people the path to a better way (although this does segue into helping others). At this stage of my life that means publishing this blog.
Now some people have told me I should save myself before trying to save the world, and this makes a great deal of sense. But if helping the world as a whole is what I want to do, then attempting to achieve that goal is what will make me happy.
Let’s return to our why-how diagram (a bigger portion of which is shown here). The first two levels are the same for everyone, although as I’ve said, the proportion of the importance of the items on the second level (feeling good, helping others, and achieving goals) differs from person to person.
Starting with the third level down it becomes highly individualized, consisting of the specific steps you have decided that will best accomplish the top 2 levels.
If you ask people what’s the most important thing, some will say that love is. Love is just a special category of feeling good — and who can deny that love and sex make you feel good! (There are a few people out there that think love is just another way of saying sex — I feel sorry for them, for they are missing out on some of the best parts of what love is.)
Money as a way of keeping score
Money is an important subject for many people. Life can be truly miserable for those who don’t have enough to meet their basic needs. But some, who accumulate money easily, end up with much more than they could possibly spend, while continually scheming about how to get more. For them, money has ceased to be a way to buy what you need; it’s just become a way of keeping score. The higher you are on the list of richer people in the world, the better you are and the happier you become; having the status of being filthy rich outshines the money that you made to get you there.
Kevin Trudeau said that “Money should be used and people loved. The problem is that money is loved and people used!” (Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About, by Kevin Trudeau, 2005 edition, Chapter 3, halfway into the chapter. If you decide to buy his book, get the 2004 or 2005 edition — much of what he had to say, including quotes from others that support his views, has been cut out of the 2014 edition.)
The samsara shuffle
On the old Ben Casey doctor show, from the early 1960’s, the show always started with these 5 symbols — man, woman, birth, death, infinity. When I first saw them, in reruns, I thought I was pretty smart — for I knew what each of those symbols meant. But what I completely missed at the time was what they meant all together.
The ancient Hindus called it samsara — the endless cycle of birth and death. It actually refers to the reincarnation of a single individual, but for our purposes we’ll just look at one generation raising the next, and so on, forever. It’s the practice of pairing up in a heterosexual relationship, having children, encouraging them to do the same when they grow up, and when you die, it all continues with the next level; on and on forever. (Cynics will say this accomplishes nothing because you just end up in the same place you started. But proponents will say that’s the point; for society to continue doing this for all time, accomplishing the desired infinity.)
Many people eagerly embrace samsara — claiming it’s the only way to live, and everybody must do their part. They condemn homosexuals, saying they’re trying to “recruit” others into their lifestyle. But what I’ve noticed is that no one recruits more than parents do.
It may have occured to you that if taking drugs makes you feel good, then why not do so? The problem here is that some drugs are highly addictive, and getting hooked is a one-way street you can’t back out of. I’m not going to moralize, but different drugs have different levels of harm and addictivness — so don’t get yourself into anything you can’t get yourself out of.
At worst, you’ll take drugs to feel good, but eventually have to take them just to stop feeling bad.
How addictive are drugs? One of the newest drugs, xylazine, is so addictive that even though it’s poisonous, it’s so effective that addicts keep taking it anyway, even though they know it’s killing them. (On the other hand, many illegal drugs are nonaddictive and do less harm than alcohol. So do your research.)
My complete why-how table
Here is the latest version of my why-how table. I say “latest version” because, done correctly, it will keep changing as your life does.
And if you find yourself unhappy, use my Happiness Remedy:
◆ Do something that will quickly help you feel physically good. For me, that usually translates to eating some kind of favorite food — but as a sugar addict, I have to be careful not to use too much.
◆ Do something nice for somebody.
◆ Work on something “you’ve been wanting or needing to do”.
Just a little bit on each of the above should do it.
So what is the purpose of life then? It’s simply to enjoy life by being happy; by feeling good, helping others, and achieving your goals — and doing all the subordinate tasks that come with them.
Some will say that the meaning of life is not to be happy, it’s to be useful instead. But is not being useful the same as helping others? So being useful just contributes to your happiness anyway. (And I challenge anyone to make themselves “useful” and not feel happy about it!)
I call your major life tasks your Personally Important Life Goals to Realize your Individual Manifest, which abbreviates as PILGRIM. Figure out what those tasks are, then do them, and your life will work out just fine. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂