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Happy..What is it?

Cremisi's picture

 Do people really even know what will make them happy? 

That's something that professor Grobstein asked us on Thursday. Happiness is a massive concept we are always working towards, it's true. However, how do we each define happiness? I was discussing something similar to this with a friend a few days ago, and I realized that I use the term "happy" rather loosely. If someone is smiling, i'd describe them as happy. If someone is having fun, i'd describe them as happy. If someone seems content, then they are happy too. Happy is a term that, to me, can define many different aspects of things. But does using it to describe so many different ideas undermine its true meaning? In terms of "happy" I think that it indicates feelings of pleasure. You win the lottery, you are happy. You eat a delicious dessert, you are happy. You see an old friend, you are happy.'s all temporary. Feelings of pleasure end, and all that's left is the memory that they gave. But, I suppose that that is happiness too, in a way. To remember, feel content. It's not necessarily that you are feeling pleasure anymore..and it doesn't necessarily mean that there is a smile plastered ear to ear on your face..but you feel almost close to neutral with a twinge of hope. I suppose that is true happiness to me. Being serene and faithful. The first "happy" i described would be more of just pleasure-seeking. Pleasure is not happiness because all pleasure ends. When I think of happiness, I want it to be something unending.Happiness seems like such a reward to get in eternally-lasting prize won after years of hardship. I don't know who said it, it was probably professor Grobstein, "the state of happiness may prevent you from exploring new things just as much as depression does" and this is probably true. I feel as though if someone were truly happy and content with the way things were at a point in time, then they would never do anything to change anything. Someone would just exist. I suppose this again begs me to re-define my version of happiness. I'd say a large majority of people are happy. And the world still turns, and people still try to make a good life for themselves. So perhaps this means that happiness can exist alongside hardship and heartache. Happiness must not be the end, because if it were, once someone achieved happiness, there would be nothing left to live for. Happiness must be something besides feeling pleasure (as I have already said, its all temporary) and it must be something less than feeling perpetually content. It must be the in between of hope, perhaps. Hope seems like the appropriate intermediary between the two. Hope means that you may possibly not like where you are now, but, you decide to keep going on in life, because somewhere along the way, things may look up or change for the better. 


When i use happiness, I think i'll try to be more direct in my meaning from now on. We mentioned Japan in class, and my throat instantly tightened up as I thought about my brother who lives there. He moved out of Tokyo a few days ago to the southern island of Kyushu to stay with an old family friend, Kyoko. My mom spoke to Kyoko about her grandson who stayed in Tokyo, and asked if she was worried about him. "The Japanese don't think that way. It's all the foreigners who are so unfaithful about the entire event" This me a strange feeling. A little sad, but hopeful. As worried as I am, it makes me feel a little more calm about everything. I like to hear the statistics and probability of how likely it is that radiation won't spread to certain parts of Japan. And the Japanese people continue on, strong, faithful, commendably polite and civil. And these numbers make me calmer, and though I feel tight-throated, I feel hopeful. And, in turn, I suppose I'm happier than I once was.


Vivien Chen's picture

When I read the post and

When I read the post and elly's comment, I thought of self-actualization in Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. Self-actualization is the feeling of self-fulfillment and the feeling at one has reaches his or her full potential (in life). Many people strive to get there, but only a handful, maybe not even any, achieve self-actualization. This doesn't mean that we aren't content with where we are in life. It's more like a concept that drives us to be better individuals. So I guess this can parallel to the idea and concept of happiness. I don't know anyone who knows what being "truly" happy is. It's like, how do I know what my "full potential" is when I don't know what I am capable of (relating to self-actualization). I believe that we use the concept of "true" happiness to motivate us to do things we love and to "look for more" as elly stated. 

elly's picture

Being content...

"I feel as though if someone were truly happy and content with the way things were at a point in time, then they would never do anything to change anything. Someone would just exist." This reminds me of Power's statement in Generosity where he says, "Wanting is what having wants to recover." This implies that once you have something, you are still not content but rather it is human nature to continue to want. Is there a problem with this? Because where is the fun in never wanting, never striving for something more, or something new and exciting?

But I suppose there is a somewhat bleak side to this, in that if we are always found wanting, then we can never truly be happy and content? I'm not sure which way I want to look at this statement, but I suppose I always try to take the more optimistic route and so I will agree that even though we may never be truly content, this very fact will push us to always look for more. I don't think I would like to live a life where I was always content with my position, because the world is full of an infinite number of stories (right?) and I need to keep living them. (Of course, this brings me to one of the central issues in Powers, and in the library of babel concept, of whether there is a set number of stories that have already been written...I suppose this whole thought process has become very cyclical!)

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