Be Happy

I’m convinced it’s the isolation. That, or the torture of a slow news day is finally taking its toll.

You see, I’ve been thinking about a few things after reading a post over at Divigate. Eric is actively searching for happy people, having realized that he’s unintentionally surrounded himself with grim company:

I came to a scary conclusion today: I know about eight people really well. Of this group, I wouldn’t consider any of them happy people… What does this mean? Does this mean I associate myself with grim company? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I don’t actively search for unhappy people. I even try to distance myself from people who are particularly negative. I imagine being the Co-Chair of an Atheist and Agnostic society means I encounter a higher percentage of unhappy people than most. Yet, I find it rather amazing that I know no one who is truly happy, truly content.

While I don’t know any of Eric’s friends, I think that assessment is a bit too simplistic to respond to accurately. After all, I don’t believe anyone can even be completely grim or totally happy. Rather, people are usually content with certain aspects of their lives and unhappy with other parts.

But perhaps I’m oversimplifying the question myself, so let’s look closer. If we were to drill down from the most general feelings about our lives and scrutinize specific living conditions, would our feelings still be as binary? What would we find there, bubbling up through the layers of the human psyche? Happy or unhappy? I think not.

Each person is an ocean of feelings, a complex mixture of longing and resentment, fulfillment and disappointment, exhiliration and anxiety. It’s never as simple as a sliding scale, as our feelings are constantly being tugged every which way, churned about by the changing circumstances of our everyday lives.

The “level” of one’s happiness is never static, either, as I’ve learned over the past two weeks. Yes, let me use myself as an example. My recent trip to New York was a personal high point, ending with a rare bit of optimism that spilled over into the days afterward. However, since then the afterglow has faded, and a confluence of negative events has left me fighting a bout of depression. Lately, my mood has been rather listless, bordering on a kind of free-floating despondency that seems to turn everything gray.

But I digress. I think that, before one can assess the happiness of others, he should first ask himself how well he even knows his friends. We are, after all, taught that as often as possible, our appearances should deceive. I have gotten to know many a chipper fellow, only to realize that they are, beneath their winning grins and dandy airs, a roiling mess.

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