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Conscious happiness

July 15, 2012

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The office is so quiet these days.

Many people take vacation in July and I like the quietness. Me, I’m taking little to no vacation this summer. It’s really my first summer of “9-to-5” style work and I’m not yet feeling the need to flee that other people in a similar situation generally feel during the warmer months of the year. I think I’d rather take vacation in the winter.

Facebook status posts confirm that people are out having a good time, on boats, overseas, at parks, at concerts, with friends, drinking Corona, barbecuing meat, etc. There appears to be a propensity among humans to want to brag about or announce what they’re doing and where they’re going. I believe that in some way it validates their decisions to take vacation and/or spend money on frivolities. But they look happy. And maybe they are happy. And when people are happy, they generally look good–that is to say, “good” both in reference to their condition and appearance and also in reference to their person.

All of the summer-induced smiles on my Facebook feed have given rise to conflicting feelings in me. On one hand, I am gladdened to see such apparent happiness in a world that often appears so sad. These cheerful individuals have somehow overcome the barrage of bad news and found solace in their immediate lives: their family, friends, health and weather. On the other hand, I am troubled by all this happiness despite the knowledge that our lives are in direct contradiction to our morality.  I say “our” and not “their” because I feel that I too struggle with my own happiness when I know that taking pleasure in the distorted luxury of our affluent society is only a chimera when coming to terms with the interconnectedness of our lives and decisions and the lives of billions of others, more miserable and wretched than we.

Alright, I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. There is simply no point in being miserable needlessly just because we know that our excesses necessitate unnamed misery, suffering and deaths. Whether we are happy or miserable in our lives will not change the indirect impact we have on others elsewhere. So might as well be happy, no? Except that our happiness may seem provocative or disrespectful in light of all this. Our misery or frustration may seem more like conciliatory sympathy. But either way, it could be regarded as insulting. So what do we do?

I don’t think that we need to focus on how we feel or how we come across as feeling. If we’re sad, we’re sad; if we’re happy, we’re happy. Our happiness and sadness should not be considered moot only because we benefit from the privilege of living in a rich country with social welfare and relative shelter from harm. What we should focus on, however, is twofold: (1) how can we make changes in our lives to reduce the suffering of others, and (2) how can we be most informed in life so that we are aware of the impact (whether negative or positive) of all of the daily decisions we make (whether it is to eat meat, buy clothes, travel to exotic countries, or simply just spend the weekend at home in an air-conditioned environment)? …all of this of course, irrespective of how we may feel on a daily basis. Consciousness in our daily decision-making–no matter how seemingly insignificant–is for me, the most important step in reconciling one’s morality with one’s actions and reducing the guilt and ignorance which so often may lead to one’s own unhappiness or the unhappiness of others present or absent in one’s life.

If I knew that everyone smiling at me on my Facebook feed was making the conscious decision to smile at me, knowing as best as they can how their opting to do whatever it is they are doing that makes them smile is impactful in so many ways, I would smile back.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 2, 2012 8:48 pm

    usually it requires one to travel to impoverished countries in order to recognize your discussed thoughts…

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