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Posted on 2011.12.13 at 09:24
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"Why are you asking?" I respond to my son. "Because I want to know." He replied. I explain that I knew he wanted to know by way of the question - he would not have asked it otherwise. "I want to know why you wanted to know, for therein lies the purpose of the question; without which there is no reason to ask." There was a time when my son was out of his toddler phase, and as children of that age are wont to do - very inquisitive about a myriad of things - would ask me a litany of ceaseless questions, most of which, when sufficiently answered would be followed up with,"How do you know?"

Comprehending empirical epistemology is not something I would expect from someone that young, not even my own offspring, yet the question merits an answer, even if to a small child its as comforting as, "I just do." Less comforting is that answer from an adult to another adult. Adults first have the cognitive ability of comprehension and secondly are not comforted by such hollow platitudes. When an adult asks of another adult why, "That's just how I feel" is never an acceptable answer. It can't be in order for culture to function, let alone thrive. Traditions are based upon reasons, and at some point, that reason may have changed. If it is not known why something is done, wherein lies its authority to be believed? (And for the record, "faith" is the opposite of authority - belief that is not based on proof.)

Look up the word character in the dictionary. Qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity.* What the dictionary leaves out is that it would be foolish to define those qualities during times of peace and relative comfort. Its easy to have honesty and integrity when you're well-to-do, or courage when the toughest decision you face on a daily basis is which tie to wear to the office. No, character is defined under hardship or duress, when it goes against self-preservation or greed or hatred - a more Machiavellian causality; human nature.

If it can be agreed that the proof Job loved the Lord was in his suffering, not just because he believed it to be so, then it can also be agreed character is forged under those same conditions. Therefore, all things being equal, I submit to you happiness is defined similarly - under less than ideal circumstances; duress. Or if you prefer, Jung submits to you.* Happiness is easy to find when everything is going great! Less so, when the source of that happiness is challenged.

"Many tend to believe happiness is a state in life without complications. How this became a predominate and vastly incorrect definition is a mystery. Who has that? Ever? Nobody. If you wait for a time in life that has no obstacles or difficulties before being happy, you will NEVER be happy."*

So how to do you ensure that your own personal source of happiness is never threatened? YOU DON'T PLACE IT IN THAT WHICH CAN BE THREATENED! Encapsulate it intrinsically, and you will never be without it. michelle1963 recently came across a "happiness quotient" webpage which put names to things I've been doing since my 20s, and things I have surprisingly identified in others! But within all this text is a lesson for myself as well. It would appear that though I am a genuinely happy person, only those of my own personality type recognize it, and as such I don't sometimes recognize genuine happiness in those outside *my* personality type. I would go so far as to say that I've learned that behavior I don't consider traits of happiness others do, and traits I thought expressed my happiness were taken as the opposite. In a word, fascinating!

Beware of how you interact with others, or you might be accused of the very things you accuse others of. The more I experience, the more I learn, the more I learn the more I grow. Different personality types might reflect each other entirely antithetical to our perceived projections, sometimes to our own peril. As my son might ask, how do you know someone is happy? How do you know if they're not? You don't. You can't - we, as a race, are too diverse.


michelle1963 at 2011-12-13 22:42 (UTC) (Link)
Agreed. It is hard to determine if intrinsic happiness exists in another because behavior does not always tell the story. Some people engage in behaviors that were I to do them would be an indicator that I was unhappy and yet does not mean the same thing to them.

I worked with a lady who always needed to "stir the pot." I initially took this as a sign of her unhappiness ~ until I noticed that she gave off tiny signals of being the most content and satisfied when the rest of us were agitated. If I'd paid attention only to her blatant behavior, I would have missed it. But I had lots of years to study this woman, and the signs became unmistakable.

I guess that may be the idea behind "toxic" people ~ those who are happiest when others are not.
ehowton at 2011-12-13 22:58 (UTC) (Link)


That reminds me of a conversation I had once with a fellow optimist:

He stated, "I too am the eternal optimist. However, I am first and foremost a realist who realizes that life is shit and what can go wrong will go wrong. Therefore, I plan for the worst and if something better comes along, then hey, that's cool too. It's called contingency."

After I explained to him 'optimist' and 'realist' contradicted itself, I pointed out that the statement 'life is shit and what can go wrong will go wrong' was textbook pessimism - the opposite of optimism!

I went on, "Dude, you prepare for the worst, yes, but the flip side of that is expect the best! You dismiss a very important facet of this. Furthermore, that's a dumb contingency! A better contingency would be to prepare for multiple scenarios. But not you! You 'prepare for the worst' by waiting for something better to come along? YOU FUCKING PACIFIST!"

IIRC that was one of the first posts in my philosophy tag.
michelle1963 at 2011-12-13 23:21 (UTC) (Link)

Re: HA!

Yes, while it's always good to prepare for the worst, one must strive for the best. Active participation!

I'm often amazed that when people use the term realist, they are actually by definition pessimists. However, I have never run into anyone who was a pessimist, considered himself an optimist and called himself a realist. Wow! It makes one wonder if he has any idea what the words actually mean.
michelle1963 at 2011-12-13 23:11 (UTC) (Link)
While it is completely understandable when a child does not know why he asks a particular question, between adults the response, "that's just how I feel" without explanation is bound to lead to the perception that the person is unwilling to share his or her innermost thoughts.

Some idea, chain of events, or experience in life has led the person to the emotion behind "that's just how I feel". Perhaps the person legitimately can't recall at that particular moment why s/he feels that way if the emotion was formed a long time ago, but even then an, "I don't know; let me think about it," keeps communication open, showing a desire to share and reach an understanding.

However, when it's just, "that's how I feel" period, then the person on the receiving end of that response is left feeling pushed away and un-trusted.
ehowton at 2011-12-13 23:37 (UTC) (Link)
Reminds me of that story you told me about Bill and gay marriages. Able to respond to each concept individually, but unable to articulate the assembled parts.
michelle1963 at 2011-12-14 00:47 (UTC) (Link)
Yes. In his case, I almost got the feeling that the reason for the feeling was due to the environment in which he was raised. He could have said, "That was the thinking at the time, and it's hard to shake what you're brought up with." I would have understood. Indoctrination can be difficult to overcome. However, I imagine that he would have found that admission embarrassing, given that he did re-evaluate many of the things he grew up with.

So I am left to guess and wonder.
ehowton at 2011-12-14 01:50 (UTC) (Link)
How about this: "Admissions of that sort are embarrassing due to the indoctrination of the thinking of the time."

All bases covered.
michelle1963 at 2011-12-14 02:18 (UTC) (Link)
pcofwildthings at 2011-12-14 03:21 (UTC) (Link)
That sort of coincides with what I was also going to say on your happiness post, that behavior does not always tell the story, and that you can't apply one person's idea of happiness on others. Say you'd rather not do X and are therefore seen as not only a party-pooper but perhaps an unhappy person; why else wouldn't anybody want to do X because it's so fun, and we're all so happy about it? Also, there's the perception of body language. I know people who just do not have a happy face. They aren't smiley, to begin with, or maybe their faces have sagged with age. When they concentrate--perhaps blissfully happily--they look more like they're pissed off than anything else.
ehowton at 2011-12-14 14:05 (UTC) (Link)
And energy levels! That can be a real drain which physically manifests itself upon ones visage.

And yet getting to know those people its quickly apparent that they're happy just as quickly apparent as it may be that they're not.

But great point about appearance. Deeper and deeper the rabbit hole goes!
pcofwildthings at 2011-12-14 03:25 (UTC) (Link)
That comment was a reply to Michelle's first comment above. Live Journal bounced me out and made me relog in; therefore, it landed at the end.
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