HAPPINESS: the level of enthusiasm for the vicissitudes of one's life

Thruout life, the happiness indicator worm of an individual fluctuates up and down between the flowers and the mire as it blindly ingests its current diet of unpredictable circumstances. Individuals find themselves enmeshed in situations over which they have little or no control. They inherit abnormal physical attributes, are exposed to poverty, suffer natural disasters, are embroiled in war or win the lottery. They imbue personal factors like health, fame and sexual fulfilment with widely variable levels of importance. Happiness is a very personal matter and no two worms will ever follow the same path thru time's garden.

Happiness... as some sort of elevated and enduring state of contented equanimity... is probably aspired to by most individuals. On the one hand, although is possible to be unhappy and not be consciously aware of the fact... just as one can be ill and not realize it... most individuals know when they are in the muck. On the other hand it is one of the enduring ironies of life that when one is actually in a balanced condition amidst the flowers, in the absence of uncomfortable and disturbing influences, it usually takes an effort of introspection to be self-consciously aware that one is in fact experiencing happiness. Only when severe disruption is encountered and a descent into the mire occurs does the appreciation emerge that one had actually been in a happy state. Happiness may only be found by those fortunate enough to exist in circumstances conducive to its attainment and who are prepared to reflect on their own good fortune.

If one wants to participate in life and not endure in some form of suspended animation, happiness is not an attainable permanent human condition. Like space and time it is inseparably relative to individual experiences. Just as curvature requires straightness for its measurement, light is compared with dark, and life is juxtaposed with death, so happiness only acquires significance when compared with its perceived opposite. It can never be an absolute state to be sought and aspired to. Since life is characterized by a complete absence of any property which humans conceive as 'fairness', attempting to acquire a permanent state of unassailable happiness is both frustrating and futile. Whenever such a dedicated search is embarked upon however, various means are self-prescribed at some stage in the pilgrimage. Money, sex, religion, travel, fame, health, danger and so on, have all been found to assist in facilitating the happiness condition, but just like drugs, determining the appropriate dose is the clever bit. Fame for example, becomes addictive and requires larger and larger doses which eventually suppress reality. Religion is best if homoeopathic quantities are administered. Travel and danger work best when applied intermittently... like chemotherapy... giving the psyche time to recover between the doses. As far as money is concerned, large doses can be often be extremely beneficial, such as when it is able to provide for the basic necessities, and corrective medical intervention is able to alleviate much in the way of deprivation and physical affliction.

As is the case with most matters, pragmatism is the only realistic fall-back strategy. In an attempt to be aware of one's state and to control the fluctuations, one technique is to try and negate any source of perceived unhappiness. In any attempt to acquire the happiness state, removing the source of the unhappiness, reconfiguring the cause, or extracting oneself from the circumstances would at least be worth trying. In general however, if something appears to have the potential for happiness... or to at least compensate for an unhappiness... and it's available, and there are no obviously unpleasant unhappiness inducing consequences threatened, there would seem to be little point in passing up the opportunity. One would only make oneself unhappy worrying about it.