Got Rant? Why Happiness and Its Pursuit Are Overrated

Allow me to be contrarian. You were expecting?  Let’s start by saying that happiness is way, way overrated. I can think of 330 million things I would rather pursue than happiness. That makes me damn near unAmerican and certainly no one ever mistook me for a Buddhist but for my love of metaphysical annihilation at death.   This all started when some lovely person put up a meme about how success is not happiness but that happiness is success.  Who could disagree?  Let’s try.

That notwithstanding I will still make the case that happiness is largely soporific banality. You can do better if you want. You might not.  That’s okay if that’s what you want.  For my part,  I could mostly care less about happiness except when it’s a reprieve from real life. I want as few reprieves as possible.
Leave it to Buddhists and Americans to make life about happiness and its pursuit. I’m decidedly of the opinion that Hindus are inordinately influenced by their own autochthonous heretics and that’s why they take up the subject at all and, as we see here, link it to success. If Hindus listened to their hearts they’d know far better that this happiness thing is just a salve, a temporary at best or at worst escapist notion that removes you from life.
Real life ain’t happy and isn’t about it. Real life wants love and love hurts. Real love longs and aches and seeks intimacy and fails most of the time, but somehow it’s worth it. Reality doesn’t give one fuck about your happiness and neither should you, except when you really need it just to take the edge off the stuff that really matters more, like love and death and friendship and justice and war and sex and.  Add here whatever gets you going.

In much of the Hindu life success is not only more valued than happiness but the two are not much connected. Hindus are driven as much by duty as by any sense of pleasure or even well-being: one does what one must and should, what one is called to do, what needs be done. That this may be redolent with some kind of joy or pleasure, that we might actually _like_ it is usually secondary at best. 
Of course we can pursue pleasure as such—aesthetic, emotional, intellectual, even personal—and that can be an end in itself and so can be done successfully (or less so), but if that is happiness then it is too a matter of happiness being not for its own sake but as part of a structure of objectives. In other words, it is a happy thing to do something well, including feel pleasures (like loving poetry for example), and so it is happy to be successful just as one can be successfully happy.
But my point is that just _being happy_ is not much of a thing for Hindus until you get to that deeply introverted, staring into metaphysics sorta’ thing. Meh. Cosmic happiness is pure banality as far as I am concerned, just more soporific nostalgia for a something that is more narcotic than awakening. Lots of people want that bliss, that primordial check out, lots of Hindus, just not me.  I would personally prefer something that is much more interesting—that is, that really heats you up—or something important—that is that slows you down, arrests you—to anything happy as such.  I could think of nothing worse than “unconditional” happiness or bliss.  Yawn.  Fergittaboutit.  Can we go for a bike ride, read an impossible book, fall in love, try to make interesting music? Anything?  Just not bliss.  Not Self.  Not Brahman. Not nirvana.  Just stop it, will ya’? Please?

I think it’s not just because happiness has largely evaded me because I don’t understand its pursuit but also because I’m pretty sure that it bores me, much like most meditation. I would rather be fired up in a testy conversation, confused by great poetry, reeling in good music, bothered by injustice, or confounded (always) by love. If we love we grieve and that is hardly ever happy, or is it? The question is more interesting if happiness isn’t the point.

If the opposite of happiness is discomfiture than that’s really what I think I’m after. I hate being comfortable. I like sports that make me hurt, especially cycling which is pretty much boxing in your underwear on wheels. The point of a bike race is to make the other guy hurt so much more than you are hurting that you finish ahead of him. Sure you can just pedal around for fun with your grandchild, you don’t have to be a dick about everything. Even I understand that. And ain’t it the truth that somedays you don’t want to put the hurt on yourself because, well, you already hurt. But why let that stop ya’? 
The point of scholarship, which is supposed to be my profession, isn’t to tell people what you know or found out or even for the sake of knowledge itself—how fucking boring is all that? That is exactly how you get tenure and how you tell yourself that your own bullshit is somehow important or interesting. That’s what most of my colleagues do and it bores me almost as much as it makes me embarrassed to share their profession. How mundane can it get?
I prefer that everything is a lot harder than all that. What’s worth it? It is to be confused, lost, confounded by ideas, by language, by feelings and arguments that have no resolution, that fail more than they ever succeed. The point of art is to provoke, to inspire, to move you. Sure, sometimes you are moved to smile—like I am every single damn time I hear Here Comes the Sun or Born to Run but that might just as soon turn into tears and heartache and loss, in a nanosecond.

I pursue discomfort with such avidity that I am usually bored shitless by the time I say what I have just thought or figured out. It’s why dozens of manuscripts sit on my hard drive about 80% done. I get no real satisfaction from the finished product, I like the work abut I especially like the work when it is failing me, when I can’t quite get it right, when it makes me frustrated, angry, or scared. I can’t be comfortable in love. I can’t be interested unless I’m being challenged or recognize a conflict. 

Happiness is what it feels like to pause from life, not to live it. I’m good for some pause. It’s just the space in between the rage and the next rage. I am Rudra’s child, not the Buddha’s. Send in the crows and the serpents.
I’m not AT ALL recommending my ideas here nor dissuading you from happiness or success or wtf the Buddhists up there^^^ are recommending. THEY make recommendations, they give advice, they are always trying to tell us wtf to do with ourselves, what we want, what we should want, what’s “really” available. I got none of that and want none of that. However, I think most people likely need that and like that. “Everybody I talk is waiting for the one who can give them the answer…”, thank you, Jackson Browne, 1972. Or salvation, or a job, or MEANING to life.
Fuck meaning. It’s overrated too. You don’t need to have a reason that is sane or purposeful. You don’t need to think you know when it’s way more likely you don’t. And most things that you know that you know you don’t give much heed too. You haven’t worried about the times tables since you almost mastered them in 6th grade so what makes you think that the things you know really are the source of something more than a banality of pleasure? Meaning is always on the make, it’s at its best when it is provisional, testing and testy, when there is contradiction and irresolvable paradox. But I don’t much want advice nor do I give it. I hate being told what to think. I much prefer the trials and tests that teach us how to think, that is, just to learn to think. As for feeling more deeply, we’ve covered that. If it ain’t got pain, it ain’t got love involved. Next? 
Got rant?

1 Comment

  1. Brutha! You are so totally blowing up my pursuit of Big Bliss with a brilliant bag of Big Ideas, which as you know I Love Dearly – as I Love you dearly as well….so keep making us Think, help us Look Deeper, to penetrate the Unknown as well as the Unknowable….or is IT? Real Life is in the Struggle, but Bliss is Real as the Suffering until there is Nothing at All, but that the Void, and as one Kashmir Shaivite text alludes to That dimension One step Beyond the Void….but then again knowing you were bitten in the ass at birth as the Son of Rudra ;))) perhaps you'd argue for Annihilation – free of both Void or Bliss. Or would you? None the less, It would great fun to see you again in the flesh after so long – and it would bring me some temporal "Happiness". Overrated, yes… But Alive and full with Big Stories, Big Ideas, and for me, probably some Bliss too….Lol, In Joy the journey – but That too is overrated isn't it…? So many unanswerable questions to be unhappy about – or Just Be Happy! Love ~ P

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