Find your fleeting happiness

David Soler

Happiness is one of those entities full of paradoxes. Actually, the term “Paradox of Happiness” was first coined by philosopher Henry Sidgwick.

Think of it: If you search for it, you can’t find it. If you have it, you can’t describe it, and of course if you find it, hide it, because others will try to steal or destroy it.

But why in America is being happy so taboo? I was amazed when I discovered that some local radio commentators blame the United States’ sluggish economy on “people being too happy.”

Remember Patch Adams’ Dean Walcott criticizing Robin Williams’ character for being “too happy” in the eponymous movie? The problem is, Walcott and the radio hosts are partially right. What would happen if everybody were happy? There wouldn’t be a reason to work or a need to think. It would be an incentive-less society.

For a country to succeed, it needs a few million unhappy people – depressed, disillusioned, envious and haunted with lots of problems. These are the kind of people who discover things, wage wars and make the world move. Admit it: You wouldn’t work so hard and tirelessly without that 30K in credit card debt, would you?

But, despite this sword of Damocles hanging over our heads 24/7, can we, the banal citizens of mortality still get a precious taste of that elusive entity of happiness from time to time? The answer is a big yes but a small how. Take this for example: Three days ago, a meaningless piece of electronic technology delivered it to me. No, it was not by a Matrix-style induced happiness state, just a simple jump-drive, one of those little devices you can get at Best Buy for 30 bucks.

The happiness I’m talking about was so quick that I’m inclined to call it “Jump-drive Happiness.” The bad news is the get-happy-quick tip I’m going to show you has to be genuine, so after reading it, you won’t be able to reproduce it unless spontaneously triggered. A real bummer for which you can thank the so-called Happiness Paradox mentioned above.

Ready? Here it goes: Have you ever experienced losing something extremely valuable, then finding it a short time later? You know, that feeling of promised redemption, swearing to yourself, “I will take this or that other precaution. I promise!” and then the self-deceiving, “I can find it, I can.”?

This situation happened to me when I lost my jump-drive without having an up-to-date backup of my Ph.D. data on it. I told myself: “You’ll never learn,” and “You deserve it,” with “Please, let me find it” in between. I walked around campus, re-checking all the places I suspected I could have lost it: the toilet, the lost and found department, the dining room, my fridge. All were useless. Pointless.

“Come on! This is the third one I’ve lost in a year!” Again, disappeared without a trace.

I was nearly going to give up, when my eyes identified its shape over some books in the lab. Eureka! Too good to be true, but I’d found it – not just the drive, but happiness.

There it was – that feeling, that liberation. It was short-lived, but real!

David Soler is a biomedical sciences graduate and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].