Wednesday, December 20, 2006

From the Archives: On Happiness

Article first written by yours sincerely in 2004. Back in the day, when I used to suffer Acquired Immune Delusions (of "philosophical" grandeur) Syndrome. (I wrote it around the time Nigeria won the award of HAPPIEST COUNTRY ON THE EARTH). Needs major overhaul ;-) -- a bit on the stilted (is that the right word?) side esp towards the end, parading a scattered reasoning... ok, maybe I shouldn't always resort to self-deprecation... but it does need to be reworked anyway...

by BOA (c) 2004

The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness – Eric Hoffer


Some time ago, some organization crowned Nigeria as the country with the Happiest people on Earth. Now, if you knew Nigeria well, you’d almost think of that as a kind of Joke. I’m not too sure how they came up with their Judgement. Did they judge our Happiness by the astonishing amount of parties we organize every weekend. Or by the exploding number of stand-up comics our society is churning out by the day.

Is there a Happiness Index? Y’know, a kind of :

Happiness Index = The Odds Against Happiness / Sum Total of Happiness Opportunities

Or is there another equation, one that would rival Relativity in its profoundness. Is Happiness the elusive “x”, the unknown and unknowable? Is the value a fluctuating decimal? Is it like water, existing in a multiplicity of states? Is Happiness the direct opposite of Unhappiness? Can it be learned, and taught, imitated and practiced? Can it be stored or stolen, or even copyrighted? Is happiness a fleeting fancy, or an assured ambience? Isn’t one man’s Happiness another’s Dampen-ness?

Happiness, to some elation,
Is, to others, mere stagnation

- Amy Lowell

Henry David Thoreau said that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. I think these lives of quiet desperation are somewhat like longwinded sentences. I therefore suggest that Happiness Are the commas that punctuate these longwinded sentences. For the minority who are privileged to (on the other hand) lead lives of desperate quietness, who have Expensive Toys to show for their Ambitions, Happiness for them Exists as Full Stops. Rests in the scales of the Sym–phonies of Existence.

Kin Hubbard said it is pretty hard to tell what brings happiness, since Poverty and Wealth have both failed. I say it is pretty hard to tell what happiness is. Is it Joy, or Excitement? Yes? Okay! What then is Gladness?

Happiness seems to drag Questions along, like a huge electric tail. You then begn to wonder why John Stuart Mill says “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.” Does he mean that Happiness is allergic to questioning, to probing? Yet we have come to the conclusion that Happiness itself is almost one big Question. A question averse to questioning?

More questions: How long can a man exist or survive without the faintest piercing ray of Happiness illuminating. For how long can the engines of existence operate without the lubrication of Happiness?


You are seated by the River of Life, feet nestled in the salt-ness. Assume that Happiness is in the form of the fishes that inhabit the depths. You sit still, silent, prepared to wait as long as it will take you to catch some fish. You mind swirls with the pictures and names of super-achieving people who had Happiness elude them, how they suffered in silence as an oblivious world worshipped them and envied them. You can recreate in your mind how so many of them ended up – an overdose, a slit wrist, a noose, an Asylum ID….

The sun is beginning to exchange it’s yellow for a bright, dull-orange. The dough of night rises slightly. Yet your line remains unmoved, unmoving, in the still glory of slackness. Suddenly, Something tugs hard. Not on your line though. The pull seems to be more on your heart, your soul. Despair sets in. By the way, Despair is only one of the numerous variants of Non-Happiness.

You gaze into the water and watch the illusions and mirages created by an absence of Happiness. You stop seeing your reflection in the water, you stop seeing the periodic ripples triggered by your restless bait, instead you begin to see the Bright Darkness of your Unhappiness, and the Bright Unhappiness of your Darkness.

You can’t help giving Power to your Despair and Despair to your Power. You are a self-pitying statue. (Interestingly, self-pity turns out to be another variant of an absence of Happiness). It is as though ice has seeped into you, and you can sense your Free-"ze"-dom. Your Happiness can only return by Positive Thinking and by Positive Comparison.

Positive Thinking says “ C’mon, cheer up. Everyday isn’t Xmas! You may have caught nothing, but at least you sipped of Nature in its stark nakedness (sic) all day long.

Positive Comparison thinks of Rwanda and Iraq and Afghanistan and Gaza, and says “C’mon, yours ain’t that bad. Folks there are worse off than you, so you must by implication be happier than they are.”

Which is not true, since you remember that Nigeria is the happiest country in the whole world, not America.


Tom Bailey said...

I like that happiness formula. Very interesting way of looking at it.

Anietie said...

You may wish to view the current rating of the world's happiest countries.It was conducted by researchers in my university.

Nilla said...

I absolutely love this write up..(I can see myself coming back to read it again and again).
I think "happiness" like so many other things is what you make it to be. But what is clear is that when you're happy, it's visible for all to see.

BOA said...

@ Tom: Hi Tom, that formula is my own E=MC2 ;-))... my next step now should be writing a thesis validating my hypothesis ;-)

where H = Happiness Quotient, bla bla bla ;-))

@ Anietie: This is sad news... Nigeria should declare a day of national mourning. We have just lost one of our most prestigious titles... but then, on second thoughts, all is not lost - we still have our "Most Corrupt Country" crown, not so?

@ Nilla: hi Nilla, glad you liked it... and you are absolutely right! Whatever happiness is, it is not an introvert ;-)... it is unconcealable...

Nilla said...

LOL @ "most corrupt country" its something to be proud of!

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