* This is part 2 on the Happiness subject. You can read part 1 here.
Revolution. Technology. Evolution. Greater average life expectancy of individuals. Declining poverty rates. Rise in educated individuals. Democracy. Freedom. Skyscrapers, air conditioners, cars and transport, landing on the moon, hoping to reach Mars, computers, books, schools, millions of career paths, opportunities, and an endless list of things that make us comprehend that the world is improving, and the the good in the world outnumbers the bad. So much change, countless revolutions- throughout the human race’s evolution has led to so many, so many great things that our hunter-gatherer ancestors (even a few thousand years ago) certainly couldn’t even have ever imagined in their lifetime. The Internet allows me, and hundreds of millions of other creators to share their ideas with the world, completely wirelessly. Most of us have the comforting cushion of a mattress to sleep on. We have air conditioners and heaters that keep us cool and warm during the seasons of heat and cold. We have the comfort of traveling by cars, trains and airplanes. Allowing us to go great distances that would have been impossible for human beings (the most intelligent species on Earth) just a few hundred years to travel like so. And beyond the Earth, we send humans to man-made space stations in rockets. And satellites to different planets, and beyond.
This all sounds so good, right? Right now, is the best time to be alive since forever in the past. The human race, as a mean, has the most opportunities and choices to choose from and live an amazing life filled with comfort for like 72 years.
But the question is: Have we gotten any happier as we have evolved throughout these years? Are we happier than our hunter-gatherer ancestors who needed to hunt for food on a daily basis in the painstaking heat?
First things first, this is a really important question to address. Why? Because if you think about it, all that revolutionary change and more of “good” and comfort in the world are really of no meaningful purpose if they haven’t made the race as a whole happier, right? I mean what’s the meaning of all this, if we aren’t happier?
But objective realities don’t make a person happy. They just give a series of short-term “pleasure moments”. Like probably when our hunter ancestor once found a tree with a date on it (a very rare find for the hunter indeed). The hunter gets so filled with joy by discovering a date, that his neurological system releases the pleasure hormones which give him a dopamine rush, and adrenaline fills his entire body, making him feel pleasure. Then the hunter plucks the date and relishes it, all by himself. What happens then? Well, nothing, that’s it. Is that what happiness is? No. That can’t be happiness. Rather it was just a moment of greatly immense pleasure. The hunter had to hunt for food the same way he had been doing for years tomorrow again. And as a matter of fact, the chances of him finding another sweet sitting on a tree tomorrow afternoon were very low.
It’s the same with today’s world. Buying a new car gives the same dopamine rush. And it stays for a few weeks, which fades away just as the relishing flavor of the date does for the hunter. Same with a new high post in a job, winning a lottery, or buying… really anything. And most of the comfort that we have today, we get used to, (like our predecessors who got used to hunting everyday for survival) and take for granted. Our happiness is not rooted in things. Our pleasure is rooted in things.
But then what is happiness rooted in?
I don’t know. But I think it’s rooted in the present. Now. Happiness is now. It’s always there. It’s something very hard to describe in any form. But happiness is being. Not feeling.
So are we happier now, than ever?
Short answer: No, not really.
Why aren’t we happier? Because I think that there’s a limit to happiness, like a cars speed. Like that “On the scale of 1-10, rate how happy you are”. The number 10 is the limit. It’s a threshold where happiness cannot exceed. Again it’s very difficult to understand happiness. Because most of the time happiness is misjudged as pleasure. And pleasure can be limitless. But when happiness is being, being happy, it’s not really apprehensive on how to measure it. Pleasure still can be measured, in terms of feeling. But I don’t know about happiness. There’s a lot of grey matter on the subject of happiness.
So on that number 10 threshold, when you reach the peak of being happy, you can’t BE more happier. Because you ARE happy. How can you BE more of a thing? You can FEEL more of a feeling. But not BE more of a trait. Like you can’t make a cookie BE more of a cookie, you know what I mean?
Even describing being happy as a 1-10 scale is not appropriate then. Happiness isn’t any thing. People say that playing a certain sport makes them feel happy. Or their dog makes them feel happy. But now we know that it’s really a sense of pleasure they are talking about.
Maybe there isn’t a thing as happiness? Or if there is, we don’t know what it really means.
So maybe our ancestors were as happy as we are now. The only huge thing that has improved is our objective standard of living. And that is not what happiness solely depends upon. The being of happiness depends upon just that, being happy. I don’t know how we can be more happy. But we can do things that give us a greater sense pleasure, like playing sports we love and spending time with loving dogs, etc.
This suggestion may be really contradictory to the previous article I wrote on this two part happiness series. But the more I look deeper into the meaning of happiness, the more I feel not to understand it, or I do understand it, but it doesn’t make any sense. So this is what I came to understand about happiness.
That happiness is being, not a feeling. And we don’t know what happiness really means. It’s certain that it doesn’t mean pleasure. Or it does, if that was what the person who termed “happiness” wanted it to mean. The next time you hear someone ask you or anyone else “what makes you happy?”, try explaining to them that they really meant to ask, “what gives you the most pleasure?” and that happiness and pleasure are two very different things. Understand that happiness is not a feeling. Happiness is … Whatever it really is. Indescribable.
Understanding happiness is important. Because we’ve made it a thing in the 21st century that “happiness is really important” and that “we should be happy in everything we do”. But if we don’t know clearly know what happiness really is, then how can we say it’s important? That’s why understanding happiness first is important. Before classifying happiness as important. And also is it really right to call it “the pursuit of happiness”, or could it be the pursuit of pleasure or something entirely else? Did President Thomas Jefferson mean something different, when he wrote the words, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? That’s a deep subject to ponder upon.
Feel pleasure. Be happy. But never blend the two.