Irrational Exuberance!

Midnight Philosophy in The Garden of Good and Evil

February 12, 2008. Filed under thoughts

I haven't been writing a whole lot recently, and its a combination of an eventful life along with feeling a bit sapped at the moment. It is undoubtedly one of the tragic moments of youth when you finally accept that you won't be happier when your current dilemma resolves itself. You won't be happier when you finally strike it rich, and you won't be happier just because you marry someone amazing. Happiness has to come from inside. It can't come from anywhere else.

But, as so many sermons in my high-school chapel went, here is the good news. Here is the gospel. Happiness is a renewable resources, and it doesn't rely on our material circumstances. It doesn't rely on wealth, the lottery, or even the acceptance of your peers. Recent batches of research hammer home one simple idea: even after the worst of life-changing events, we return to our previous levels of happiness after a year or two. After receiving a raise or even an enormous unexpected windfall, our happiness will dissipate back to its base level. Even after divorce or the departure of a loved one.

A picture of chicken salad.

We can blame external forces and the actions of those around us, but eventually one must come to terms with the awkward truth that we ourselves create or destroy our happiness. We are brilliantly resilient beings, if only we remember to focus on garden and cultivate ourselves instead of the looking outward into the surrounding chaos for answers.

One of the tragedies of modern culture is that we consume more time convincing ourselves that we are sick or broken than we invest in setting our words right. The demons that haunt us are not cast out with a simple incantation upon learning their hidden names. A lifetime spent labeling flaws won't create a rose in the wintertime.

Happiness isn't supposed to be easy. Its no mistake that we haven't grasped the nature of Tao, it is the natural order of things. The most important part of life is simply rising each day and moving forward. Foot after foot. Moving forward. The second most important part is to ensure your steps are either taking you closer to something you want, or that you are walking in a place you enjoy. The third most important thing is to help those around you achieve the first two steps for themselves.