Are we happier than the medieval poor?

The topic on happiness is an elusive one; much has been said and discussed but I have not found a truly conclusive argument from them.

 

Having said that, I find the following pointers worth pondering:

(1) Are we happier than our great-great-great grandparents?

  • Comparing what we have now and projecting it retrospectively might make us think we are indeed happier than them, but nothing could be further from the truth.
  • A pair of Siamese twins who have never experienced the joy of a singleton are happy with how they are. (if they are not happy, there won’t be conjoined twins from birth; all of them will seek separation procedures) Conversely, singletons like the majority of us might abhor the idea of being part of a pair of conjoined twins.
  • Therefore, because we are already in our present state, we cannot safely infer another state which might or might not make us happier. (we will always assess the situation from our present condition.) Our great-great-great grandparents who could not imagine our present states might be equally contented (or not) with their lives.

(2) The only factor that affects our happiness is the level of serotonin in our body

  • Some people might be more predisposed (genetically) to happiness but all things considered, happiness can only be derived internally.
  • This gives rise to a persuasive idea where ‘happiness is from within, not by any external factor.’
  • By the same token, some new age movement suggests (and wrongly so) that we should give free rein to our inner wants and passions to feel ‘fulfilled’.
  • To a drug addict, injecting more heroine will make his present life happier, but does that lead to a more fulfilled life?

(3) New source of discontentment

  • In the past our great-great-great grandparents are not bombarded with advertisements showing handsome actors and actresses with new cellulite micro cleansers that can make us look as flawless as their airbrushed faces.
  • Even on Instagram we are constantly fed with so many beautiful and ‘I wish I were’ pictures that we feel unworthy.
  • That is the single greatest source of unhappiness and discontentment of this age.

Therefore the only worthy goal is to shift the spotlight back at us, comparing the us today with the yesterday us. This incremental improvement will satisfy us.

Assume that we have been brainwashed from young that driving a luxurious car is a mark of success in this world. When we see someone driving it, our first reaction is always ‘how I wish I am in the driver seat’ , and not the wellbeing of the driver. If this is true for us, it is true for everyone else. This means that fundamentally, everyone is always thinking from his or her point of view. (drawn to the extreme, do you think Mother Theresa cared for the world because of this world or because it gave her satisfaction caring for this world?)

“If you want a bullock cart and get a bullock cart, you are content. If you want a brand new Ferrari and get only a second hand Fiat you feel deprived. This is why winning the lottery has over time the same impact on people’s happiness as a debilitating car accident. ”

Signing off from

Coffee Bean, Ewhayeodae 7-gil.

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