The following charts represent data from 50 surveys conducted by THIS SITE of my happiness over about 2 weeks. It’s was rather interesting though I think the methodology was flawed to some degree. I think I’ll just post them without much commentary for now.
This post is an elaboration of #3 from a list of things I learned early in life.
My small Tokyo apartment is quite boring compared to the Mexican house I lived in 5 months. No scorpions, tarantulas, snakes or rats ever visit me here. I don’t get to adjust the roof tiles every rainstorm to minimize the dripping. I don’t get to daily gather firewood just to cook the beans and potatoes. Here I actually have an indoor toilet, and don’t get to shoo off the pigs who are poking their noses in my business. My floor here is linoleum rather than packed clay and stone.
This post is an elaboration of #2 from a list of things I learned early in life.
The porous social membranes of Tokyo have allowed me to wander in and out of many sub-cultures, each with their own set of values. One value that seems to dominate many of these sub-cultures is career advancement and remuneration.
Presumably, a successful career is considered by those who value it to be a major contributor to happiness. So is there a high correlation to a successful career and happiness? To a large degree, I can speak only from my own street-level perspective. I have to conclude that a high percentage of those with careers that most would define as successful are quite dissatisfied with their lives. I’d like to examine some of the possible reasons.
Life is long.
Not for everyone, but certainly for those who step away from the usual and expected.
Those who drop themselves in a current of change will soon lose count of the changes.
And each change stretches the memory of the series of dynamic selves ever longer until a year is a decade and a decade is forever.
I am everyday amused at the expressions of those to whom I reveal a former self quite disjointed from my current self: The disfunctionally shy and aimless boy, the sincere yet tormented young man of faith, the carpenter cowboy, the weaver of fantastical tales for my wide-eyed progeny, the euphoric academic late bloomer, the occupational dilettante, and now the curmudgeon-flavored connoisseur of the eccentric.
Hedonism is usually defined as a disposition that seeks to avoid pain and suffering, and that positions personal physical pleasures superior to all other possible goals.
I also place “selfish” pleasure above all else, but wish to carefully qualify this by first commenting on human nature, then on the taxonomy of pleasure and pain.
Humans are subject to what might be called the creep of discontent. The individual who has been living in the comfort of a villa yearns for the adventure of the jungle, while those who have been long in the jungle yearn for the comfort of the villa. The same conditions yield different pleasure values over time. The deeper the discontent in setting A, the greater the euphoria when there is a transition to desired setting B.
As an example, when I first began to live in the mountains of Mexico, I was elated by the demands of survival and self-sufficiency. However, after 4 or 5 months, I began to feel a bit homesick for the amenities of electricity and plumbing. Now, after having lived in Tokyo for 10 years, the mountains of Mexico again have a considerable appeal.
Often the elation is unexpected. I experienced two and a half years of seemingly endless depression after my divorce which suddenly and surprisingly gave way to an intense euphoria when I began to explore and adopt a new identity.
Everyone divides their social world into two domains. One of inclusion and one of exclusion; the people they feel comfortable interacting with, and those people they avoid. In high school, many of us were not very inclusive due to the many insecurities that abound in a hyper-hormonal and ill-defined dynamic social context.
These insecurities may have included
- a fear of self-revelation and subsequent ridicule,
- a need to position one’s self in what then seemed like a superior social group and to disassociate yourself from the “uncool”,
- and a need to define one’s self in contrast to the enormous bulk of “idiots” that you’ve relegated to the domain of exclusion.
If these insecurities are carried into adulthood, the bulk of one’s social interactions remain in a diminished space in which a great many positive experiences must be forfeited. Continue reading