happiness and desire

Buried in an article titled “What makes women happy?” I found a bit about desire vs. happiness that gave me a framework for something I’ve been mulling recently. Much of the article could be a rant against accumulation of “stuff”: when the possessions don’t work, we go after yet more possessions. Social scientists call it the hedonic treadmill. … we keep feeding ourselves the wrong things for happiness. Still, the important bit is this: we might desire things that don’t make us happy. I talked to Alexis about the article. She readily identified with this. I like the comparison that Alexis made. She said we desire doughnuts, but they don’t make us happy. Meanwhile, I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction from cycling 20 miles 3-4 times a week, but it isn’t something that I might desire. When I fill my days with leisure, I tend to be less happy than the days where I work and accomplish something — like the room we just finished painting. If I spend time interacting with my children, I end up feeling better emotionally than if I spend all day tooling around the Internet, going wherever my desire leads me. I’m not sure if this is what is meant by the “hedonic treadmill,” but it works for me. Happiness doesn’t just happen when I try to fill my desires. What I desire doesn’t provide fulfillment. Of course, you should understand that when I think about “desire,” I have in mind the Orthodox concept of Passion. That way of thinking has been helpful to me to begin to discover that happiness is something I must choose to actively pursue rather than an emotion that I can just passivly enjoy.

3 thoughts on “happiness and desire”

    1. mentos and soda

      I don’t need to watch the mentos video, Mark’s dad found this idea somewheree on the net and began working out a variety of ways to get the most explosion for the least soda possible. He even rigged up a valve to tighten on the top of a 1 liter and got a really great explosion. It is a very impressive way to entertain folks for a few minutes … and get sticky goop over anyone who does not move fast enough after letting the mentos fall into the soda.
      Nothing to do with hedonism except as it relates to entertainment for the sheer fun of entertainment.

      The insight about choosing to do what is best in the long run is a continual battle. Unfortunately it is one that I think we as a society are losing. I just read this morning that increasingly the choice is away from the responsiblity of children and family and towards job, travel, new clothes, cars, etc. The primary thought being … Why should I bother with the inconvenience of children, … hmm, that’s another task that the immigrants take on (producing the children) that the natives do not want to do.

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