Are You Happy?

Recently it has come to my attention that many people think that their life is supposed to be happy. As far as I know the meaning of life is to eat, drink, breathe, fornicate, sleep, wake, and repeat as long as you can. I don’t see any imperative for being happy. Being happy might include not having a child when you are not ready for one (birth control or abortion),  not having everyone in your personal space (not being social),  having access to cheap healthcare when you are sick (socialized medicine).

Can any of those who read this explain why so many people think that life is supposed to be happy? I don’t get it. Really, I don’t. Tell me in the comments how I’m wrong. Explain it to me… please.

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  1. Aristotle referred to Eudaimonia—a life with happiness and fulfillment. First of all, the definition of happiness isn’t universal. So it’s hard to have an argument over whether it’s necessary to be happy. Nobody has to be happy.
    Incidentally, I wrote a post recently on whether I’m happy as an atheist.

    • Thanks for commenting. I like your post on happiness, yet it does not answer the question per se. I think we agree, happiness is not universal and not guaranteed or requisite. I did like the short statement you made about statistics. It sucks to be one, but that is the life. You seem to echo my own sentiments. I find that interesting.

  2. To me, it’s much like that “meaning of existence” thing. Most people want to believe there is some deeper meaning, and most people think about “happiness”, many perhaps as the meaning to their existence. However, as I stated in a reply to one critic of my blog on “truth”, not only does everyone have their own definition of those abstract words, but not everyone wants what others want. For me, satisfaction–in my life, in my work–is enough. Happiness is one of those shades of gray: if you never know unhappiness, how can you know when you are happy? Because I have felt miserable at times, I can really appreciate it when I find great joy in certain things.

    • An interesting thought: Do I really feel unhappy? Maybe that is just a trick of my imagination? Is unhappy really bad if all it means is that I’m not getting what I want?

    • Apollodorosh
    • June 18th, 2012

    To me happiness means what get’s called “inner peace” by hippie-types, contentment and satisfaction with your existence, your relations with the world and your family, being able to do things that satisfy you. I’m not sure I’m expressing it properly.

    It is off course not necessary for your existence to be happy, it just makes it more pleasant. If you spend your life in dreariness, then you’ll be miserable.

    To the ancient Hellenes the point of life was to live a life of achievement, so that one may be remembered by ones descendants and live on in their memories. To be able to do that leads to happiness in life, and in death also. To be sung of forever, like Akhilleús – who chose a short life of heroism over a long life of little importance – or Hēráklēs who was ultimately apotheosized and taken up amongst the Gods and who is renowned as the greatest of all Hēroi, that is happiness.

    Life may not have meaning, but it is at oneself to give it meaning; to be able to give it meaning, that is happiness.

    • So, basically you’re saying that being happy is the state of not being any of (angry, hurt, fearful, worried, scared, hungry, tired, etc.).

      Does one need be thought a hero by others to think of oneself living a life of achievement? Can we not each assign ourselves a level of achievement which gratifies our desire to be remembered without others telling us what that level is?

        • Apollodorosh
        • June 22nd, 2012

        “Can we not each assign ourselves a level of achievement which gratifies our desire to be remembered without others telling us what that level is?”

        That’s kind of what I was saying 😛

        And another thing, you may want to look into Stoicism. I think you might find that enlightening on the subject of happiness.

        • I’m going to read up on stoicism, thanks…. whenever I find that luxury item: spare time

  3. I am happy, but then again I don’t have a job and I live over an hour away from all my relatives. I don’t hang out with miserable people and when my parents call I don’t answer the phone. I am happy, but then again I spend most of my time picking daisies and listening to dance music from the 80s. When the relatives come to visit, it’s another story.

    • and that shows that happiness is in the mind of the beholder – it has no real definition. It’s just a label for some odd concept that defies description otherwise. Being happy is ‘not being something else’ like giving a label to being ‘not hungry’ but we never worry about people being not hungry in as much as we don’t insist that others be ‘not hungry’ or worry about them because they are not ‘not hungry’ too often.

      It’s difficult to be ‘happy’ when you are tired, hungry, angry, worried, injured/hurting, fearful and so on. Being happy is being none of those all at the same time.

      So, how to answer the question “What makes you happy?”

    • valleycat1
    • June 20th, 2012

    Well, in America we talk about ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ in the Declaration of Independence.

    • pursuit? Is that catching up to it, or running away from depression?

  4. I think it’s because people are selfish, really. If you define ‘happy’ the usual way, you know, unicorns, flowers, good job, happy family, easy life, you can see how self-centered the notion of being happy actually is.

    • I think you are right, but also that it is probably not that simple. I say that and it will make sense if you understand that being happy is the state of “not being depressed” and it is always difficult to express the definition of a negative state when it cannot be defined identically for each person. Some folk think happy is synonymous with ecstatic yet will agree that lack of all depression is what they also call happy. It kind of looks selfish because lack of depression requires completely subjective values to be part of the definition.

      We pass in the hallway:

      you: How are you today?
      me: I have no depression, thank you.

      you: what does that mean?
      me: I’m not unhappy.

      You: smile?
      me: I tried that, it doesn’t work like you think it does.

      you: are you feeling ok?
      me: yes, I have no depression today, thank you.

      Instead we give it a ‘nice’ word, a positive word…. happy.
      It’s just a label for a negative statement about undesirable attributes. It is not unlike applying the label ‘spectator’ to anyone not actually participating in a sporting event. As in, no, I was not at the game, I was grocery shopping at the time… I’m just a spectator.

      or something like that

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