This post compliments and furthers the previous post on happiness. In order to be “happy”, we must first realize what “happiness” truly is (define it), and in order to do that, we need to explore the underlying context we use to subjectively determine if we are “happy.” This involves in part, looking at wants and needs.
A want is an impulse towards pleasure and a need is an impulse away from pain. They are very similar but subtly different. Wants are gratified and needs are satisfied. Needs are more primal and we will almost always satisfy them before we look to gratify wants. Wants and needs are universal in that we all share them. They are very basic. (See below for list of shared human wants and needs)
It seems “peace and joy” might be a close approximation of what could be considered a sustainable state of “happiness.” Peace is deep acceptance of “circumstances.” Joy is the side-effect of the positive (+) energy one gets from TFB (truth force being) or what many refer to as God. This connection to TFB is completely separate from and different than one’s involvement with any realities in the EW (external world). So long as one maintains this connection, one experiences peace and joy. This can last forever as a maintainable state, similar to learning to balance on a beach ball in the water. It requires constant intention and one must learn how to do it, but it can be achieved.
Happiness is best defined as “what happens.” I read that somewhere but cannot locate it in my library. It was probably Allen Watts or Anthony de Mello who illustrated this to me. This is a very high or advanced definition, but it is the truth. In any case, let’s explore what happiness is and I will mention thriving as an idea which might better describe what most of us mean when we say “happiness,” while avoiding some of the “happiness” pitfalls. Thriving is a state that is achievable and maintainable and pleasurable, but not “desirable” (something ego would chose). On the surface, it is similar to happiness, but it includes the idea of inherent “selfish” (of the self) wants and needs. It is different from “happiness” in that it is not desirable like happiness is. Thriving is nothing “to write home about.” It’s NOT a high. The difference between happiness and thriving is like the difference between having a “good time” and having fun. A “good time” is something you really look forward to and write about on facebook later or, if its really good, you might not write about it, you are more discreet and you just tell a few people. When you have fun, you enjoy it, but its not a high. This difference is subtle but significant. A high is followed by a low. A high is unsustainable. Thriving is sustainable. Thriving is doing the things you naturally do, responding to your selfish (of the self) wants and needs, and gratifying and satisfying them. Its like, when you’re hungry, you eat. That’s it. That’s thriving. Happiness is like seeing an advertisement for a restaurant and getting all dressed up and going out and spending a lot of money on a fancy dinner. You really don’t need the fancy dinner. It’s ok to have a fancy dinner, but you have to remember it’s not a sustainable pleasure- if you start going out to fancy dinners all the time, you will eventually raise the bar on what “fancy” is and the other places will no longer be as fancy and you won’t be as high on them anymore. Thriving is not something you’re inclined to tell people about. Happiness is something you tend to talk about. Unfortunately it’s fleeting. Happiness is driven by ego and ego’s ideas about having something GOOD and DESIRABLE. (Please see an upcoming post on good and bad vs positive and negative) (please see the post at the top of this page and scroll down to the discussion of Christmas)
Here are the basic human needs/wants we all share from highest to most basic:
-conditions of life: vocation/home/health
Regarding conditions of life vs survival, the basic survival conditions are needs, while the conditions of life are wants. A want and a need is interrelated. For example, the shelter and clothing needs are survival needs and point ultimately at the need to regulate body temperature. The need is shelter, but the want is “home.” Its a legitimite want to have a home. A need is an impulse away from pain, and a want is an impulse towards pleasure. The need for shelter is an impulse to avoid being cold and getting sick. The want for a home is the impulse to have somewhere you are safe and can sleep and eat meals, etc.
In our western, industrialized culture, it is wise to remember what we really require in order to thrive. I submit it is as simple as the following:
1-a strong connection to TFB, God or your higher power (everything after this is secondary or far less important)
2-subsistence needs met (food, clothing, shelter)
3-some people you love who love you back
4-meaning (often from a job or hobby- for many women, this job might be homemaker- I mention this only to show I believe that is a legitimate job.)
THAT’S IT. You DON’T need an Audi S8 or a 55″ flat panel TV or a huge McMansion or indoor pool or brand new Nike’s with Jordan’s name on them or a Rolex or anything else !!! If you think you require these to be happy, you’re laboring under a huge illusion. You will never be happy this way. Here is what I have learned about material goods and how they impact “happiness.”
It was an issue of Time magazine that put this into specific relief for me. Although I am not a consumer of Time Magazine, several years ago they had an issue with a big portion devoted to happiness that caught my attention while in the checkout line at a supermarket. What I took away was the following:
-money cannot bring happiness
-people impact happiness
-meaning impacts happiness
Money can have a small impact, and that is in the following way; if you are surrounded with people that have noticeably more money than you, your happiness can be increased to the extent that you bring yourself up to their financial level. So if you live on a block where everyone has a $75,000 lifestyle and you have a $55,000 lifestyle, increasing yours by $20,000 will impact your happiness. BUT, any increases beyond that will have no impact. Crazy, but I believe, true. So if you earn an extra $500,000 per year above the original $75,000, you don’t get any extra happiness!
Let’s explore this a little. What happens when you see something desirable? Let’s say it’s a new Shelby Mustang. You see one driving down the road and you really want it! You’re filled with desire. You think how cool it will be to own one and drive around in it. You think how awesome it will be to impress some little hottie with your driving skills at high speed on Sunday mornings when the traffic is real light and there aren’t as many police about. You think of taking it to the track in Virginia or the Poconoh mountains and screaming around really fast and even getting some driving lessons. What is happening? You want to feel good. This is at the core of all this drama. Tony Robbins pointed this out to me in his book “Awaken the Giant Within,” when he said everything we do is ultimately motivated by a desire to feel good. (Back to wants and needs; an impulse away from pain and an impulse towards pleasure.) So let’s say you get the car. You’re gonna feel really good! For a while; but then, you’ll get used to the car. Pretty soon the buzz will wear off. It won’t be quite as awesome as the novelty fades. Then you’ll see another car… maybe a new model, maybe a Vette, but something else will take over. You see; the “bar” get’s reset. Your mustang will just be “normal” or “regular” cause you’ll be used to it. What used to bring you so much pleasure loses it’s luster once you get used to it. This is impossible to avoid.
It’s like the Federal Express story. When Fed-Ex first offered overnight delivery, it was awesome! It was revolutionary. Being able to get contracts across the country overnight. Doing business deals so quickly, the feeling was this was awesome and would significantly impact productivity. Yet, shortly thereafter, everything was readily delivered overnight and people began expecting this. The bar was raised and overnight delivery was no big deal anymore; it was “normal” or “average” or “everyday.” Unfortunately, this phenomenon happens in relationships too. You see a little hottie and you’re all over her, and then 6 months later, she’s just a normal girl. There’s something else in operation here with regard to relationships, and it has to do with projection and is best described in the work “He” and “We” by Robert Johnson, I believe.
So this addendum to my original post on happiness is an attempt to comment on what happiness isn’t. Clearly, this merits further analysis, but the bottom line is that the “western” concept of “happiness” as celebrated in US popular culture is an illusion that is impossible to achieve or maintain. In fact, its like being on a treadmill chasing a desirable imagine on a movie screen in front of you. In a previous post, “the tao of skate,” I mentioned there are no “states” humans can achieve and maintain. Anything our ego-minds can identify as desirable, must have opposites that are undesirable. For us to experience the desirable state, we must also experience the undesirable state. This is inescapable. To the extent we want to be “happy,” we must also be “miserable.” To say “I want to be happy,” is to say “I want to be miserable.” Don’t worry about this, it has been true your entire life. Just work at seeing this and think about what “thriving” might be. Thriving is merely living naturally; doing what YOU do; BEHAVING the way you BE; its not desireable to thrive, as desire is a function of ego and thriving is not of EGO; thriving is of SELF. I’ll post definitions of self, ego, consciousness and other concepts in an upcoming post probably titled “the internal and external world context” or something like that. In any event, thriving is when you are engaged with your life, doing your thing, and you wouldn’t be waxing poetically about how happy you are, but you wouldn’t be complaining about being unhappy either. You’d just be doing what you do. If someone asks you “how are you?” You wouldn’t be able to answer the question literally, cause you wouldn’t have a context with which to answer. Thriving is something plants can do. A tree can thrive if its given the proper sunlight and water and soil, etc. Thriving can be considered just “becoming what you were intended to be.” Its not a high or an up like happiness. It just is. Its nothing to write home about. But it is satisfying. It means you’re satisfying and gratifying your needs and wants.
I hope some of this helps. This requires more commentary.