Saturday, June 30, 2018

So what does it take to make you happy?

Oh, my, the timeless debate about the root of happiness!  So much of what one hears again and again is a blueprint of what it takes to be happy.  I suppose it is a reasonable enough ambition - embracing as it does the generalized rule that everything is somehow directly or indirectly aligned with the search for happiness or at least the assumption that the pursuit of happiness is fundamentally all that matters.  Put that way I am not certain it is a conclusion so readily apparent.  I am not suggesting there is anyone in his or her rightful mind who would not wish to be happy; it's just that I am not convinced the goal of human conduct is so easily portrayed. Being happy is after all not necessarily a global enterprise in and of itself.  Rather happiness is in my experience merely an adjunct of an otherwise pleasing situation.  That is, the initial goal is not simply happiness (whatever that is defined to be) but instead the tactful fulfillment of some other purpose.

This qualification conveys the mathematical element of happiness.  Granted this is not a customary option when discussing the ethereal subject of happiness. Mathematics - associated as it is with axiomatic precision - tends to inspire clinical thoughts at best.  Most I suspect would be hard pressed to make the inductive leap from what is considered the abstract science of numbers to the blitheness of personal contentment.  Happiness is not widely viewed as the hormones, chemicals or even the money required to promote the feeling. Happiness is more closely associated with less quantifiable components such as production and achievement, features which significantly widen the narrow rendition of physics and engineering.

Personally I have always felt inspired by mathematical solutions - not because they're either abstract or apodictic but because they're pure.  I prefer to imagine the heady subject of happiness as relevant to higher intent than an ephemeral smile or taste.  And I certainly don't consider that happiness is only a visceral sensation (a preoccupation frankly which I denote more appropriate for rapacious youth).  In my old age I have succumbed to an examination of the lesser tangibles of life, those purest adages which capture the essence of the subject.

Unquestionably the purest form of happiness is that which manifests itself without any particular reason.  Recall for example the occasional utterance, "It's great to be alive!"  I am inclined to think that this sense of bon vivant is common among those who are blessed with the advantages of good health. Just being able to crawl out of bed each morning without groaning or wincing is sufficient reason to welcome the morning sunshine.  But we haven't all the assurance of lingering health or physical wholeness.  Are we then eventually facing the dilution of happiness?  I think not.

If I were to consider my own factual details, I must perforce recall two important points.  First, my younger days were predominantly encumbered by necessity (along with a large measure of trepidation and anxiety).  In plain terms, work (which characterized 40 years of my existence) or studies (which covered the other 20 years of involvement) were both an endurance.  Sure, I am proud to have studied and practiced law.  But it was all an effort - none of which was accomplished without a huge amount of attention. Which brings me to my second point; namely, that my so-called retirement has been by comparison an absolute lark. I can barely recollect how my professional duties  once relentlessly insinuated my being.

Surely the secret to happiness cannot lie solely in being unemployed!  In fact I am persuaded to think otherwise. Though how I am induced to summarize the alteration is not so straight away evident. I may even suggest that an analysis of happiness becomes incrementally more complicated with age.  One need only recall the chilling observations of Socrates or Ecclesiastes to sustain the awakening gloom of living which comes with age, hardly a prescription for happiness. Yet as I say, the import of my "golden years" has certainly been more towards pleasure than deprivation.

It is the advancement of age and the attendance of what is considered an appropriate evolution (say, things like down-sizing, getting rid of unused goods and whatever can't go in the dishwasher, quitting drinking, smoking and over-eating, withdrawing from social and anti-social behaviour, reading more and talking less, spending time with family and wearing comfortable clothing) which stimulate one to  assess the new model.  On the face of it, there is little to compel one to look unfavourably upon the resulting condition.  Yet one is reminded that the grade of happiness is entirely directed at new themes. Questions surrounding what you accomplished, how much money you made doing so, what new positions you hold or anticipate - these are all quantifications which differ completely from the new vernacular.

This is where the mathematical approach to happiness begins to shine.  For one thing, the mathematical approach normally embraces specifics rather than generalities.  Not to mention that most mathematical syllogisms are traditionally based upon manageable propositions or "premises".  Reducing one's reality to describable terms is inherent to skilful deduction. It is besides far easier to examine a colloquial idiom if the eye is trained upon narrower functions.

Happiness like mathematics has its foundation in simplification.  All my life I have sought to reduce the complications of living to its elemental terms.  This is naturally more convenient when reduced to rudimentary principles.  I think most of us acknowledge there are only a few matters which excite us. Eliminating the surplusage of living is a first step to discovering happiness. When however we subsequently examine what we have done, its immediate importance is perhaps lacking.  It is also true that the elimination of complication has the effect of extending what remains. If you haven't already learned to temper your impatience, you will have to address it.  Fulfilling life's primary needs - and then patiently awaiting the outcome - will invariably afford the method of understanding what it takes to make you happy.

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