Thursday, August 28, 2008

:: :: real happy versus fake happy? really? ::

(I’ve included this image because my blog is feeling too un-image-y lately because I am too mentally preoccupied to take or download pictures. This is a pendant available for sale on the great and wonderful etsy in the great and wonderful MadisonReeceDesigns shop. It is, sadly, about sixteen times too large for my surprisingly small neck, mostly because it would dwarf my surprisingly small head by being half its diameter, but I thought one of you might like it. It’s only $12 (plus she’s got a sale for $5 off going on until August 30th) and she’s got lots of others. And no, I don’t know her and am not being paid to show you this image. I just like it and it makes me happy and this post is about happiness. Sort of. So there.)

And now on to our irregularly scheduled blog post.

So… I met my friend Mr. Dewey (Decimal) at the library again today for some quality one-on-one time. We spent some time in the 618s as we often do lately (depression, mental health, etc.) and then journeyed to the 179.9s for a book by someone Emmons (really? do you expect me to interrupt this rant to go find a link and a first name? get real) about the science of gratitude. I read an article about it in this month’s Yoga Journal (again, you’re on your own for a link here, people — haven’t you ever heard of Google?) and found it intriguing enough to garner a trip to the library.

Well, that and I had four reserved items awaiting me there.

Anyway, I found the Emmons book and then surfed the decimal system looking for other interesting finds. And then I found this book whose author and title now escape me (I know! Bad blogger!) because at the time I just read his jacket blurb and then moved on to the next book without much reaction other than, “Yeah. No. Not this one.”

But throughout the day I’ve been finding myself getting more worked up over this guy’s book. Basically his premise is that contemporary culture has created an entire class of people he calls the “happy class” who are, basically, fake happy. These are people who have taken psychotropic drugs (which he says are overpescribed — and who am I to argue since I don’t know shit about this other than that I’m currently taking psychotropic drugs and they appear to be serving a purpose) or have done one of three other things to get fake happy: they workout to make themselves happy, they have turned “falsely” to religion to make themselves happy, or something else I can’t remember.

OK. It’s not like what this guy has said is so bad. I know. But it just gets under my craw (is that even close to the right expression? anyone?) because I just can’t wrap my head around the difference between “real” happy and “fake” happy. If working out makes someone feel happy, why isn’t this real? Is it only real happiness if we have made absolutely no effort to achieve it? If it just smacked into us like a bird into a vinegar-clean glass window?

Besides, wouldn’t the more interesting topic be how contemporary culture has taught us to all think we want constant happiness? That it’s our right to be happy?

I have, obviously, been thinking an awful lot about happiness lately, what with me walking around all unencumbered by the terrible burden of happiness. And it seems to me that happiness is such a lazy word to describe a whole range of things we really mean: satisfaction, joy, enjoyment (which I think is different from joy, obviously, despite the same root word), peacefulness, contentment, ecstasy, etc. Happiness is just part of the spectrum, and yet we tend to talk as if it’s the only color that matters. I do, anyway. I never hear myself saying, “Why aren’t I at peace with my life?” but rather “Why aren’t I happy?” Happiness is such a fleeting emotion, but something like contentment is so lasting.

Now why don’t we have a dewey decimal for books on contentment?

Or maybe we do. I guess I haven’t looked.

Color me embarrassed. : )