When Finian came home from school today, I just finished listening to (yet another) particularly gloomy news report about the economy. The wind was howling, the rain was lashing fiercely against the windows and all in the world seemed grey and hopeless. I was feeling scared, angry and helpless when in bounced Finian.
He zoomed around the house, squealing with excitement, practically pinging off the walls with joy.
Instantly, my day grew brighter and I could see that there was good stuff in the world worth living for.
So I got to thinking about happiness, and it seems that it's all about expectation.
Back when life was nasty, brutish and short
, I imagine that happiness was surviving til tea-time, free of bubonic plague, with a full complement of limbs.
In times of famine, happiness is a full belly.
In times of war, the possession of a beating heart and functioning lungs is as good as it gets.
But it seems that the further removed we become from the simple act of living, the further removed we are from what it means to be truly happy.
The satisfaction achieved from putting food on the table, and protecting your family from imminent death, has been replaced by a nagging emptiness that will only be filled by an iPhone 4.
It seems that humans eternally strive for happiness but are incapable of achieving it, or at least of holding onto that slippery emotion when we do experience it.
Yet, why do we constantly search for it when it is just another emotion to be experienced and enjoyed?
All emotions are transient, and I think that's a good thing.
Happiness feels good, so of course we want more of it. But it's a tall order to expect 24/7, thousand watt Happiness in a life filled with the colour of failure, hope, disappointment, excitement, anger and a whole stew of other emotions that are equally valuable. Experiencing a thousand different emotions every day is normal and makes us richer, more interesting people.
"Maybe I like the misery!"
If we lived in a permanently chilled state of Utopia, we would never experience the niggling doubts that urge us to challenge, create and improve. Being slightly unhappy needles us into action that can have wonderful consequences.
If Thomas Edison was happy to sit in the dark, we'd still be reading by candle-light.
A vaguely unsettled feeling of unhappiness gives us a creative itch that has filled the world with art, books and technological advances.
Striving to achieve happiness is big business, and there is a market thriving on our desire for it.
Businesses create a need for eternal youth, beauty, thinness, sexiness, achievements and wealth (which most of us, most of the time, manage pretty well without), if we spend enough money and buy enough of their product. But regardless of what the product is, the underlying message is that you're unfulfilled without this...this will make you happy.
Oh really??? A face cream filled with bat-shit and horse-piss (patent pending), that won't penetrate past my epidermis anyway and therefore couldn't possible deliver it's claims, will render me prostrate with bliss??
An architecturally perfect house built with custard and rolled-up newspapers will have me writhing in ecstasy?
A malnourished figure that has me demented with hunger and crumbling with osteoporosis will have me bursting with joy?
I don't think so.
Happiness comes and goes, like any other equally valuable, if less comfortable, emotion.
Finian's happiness is not dictated by the possession of an iPad, or a healthy bank balance, or back-slapping popularity.
He's happy because he's here.
It's humbling, and wonderful, that a gorgeous autie kid reminded me of that.