Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Happy Life

People often wish for happiness for themselves or others.  I was thinking about that the other day and was intrigued by this idea that people want happiness for themselves and you would be hard pressed in fact to find someone who actively desires misery aside from those with mental disorders.  That said, by and large we actually like people best when they have experienced misery and hardship.  When you meet someone who has had a wonderful life, easy times all around and never had anything go wrong the natural reaction is a combination of distaste and envy.  In fact one of the surest ways to get people to dislike you is to talk about how perfect your life is and how you have never suffered while you want to get people to like you a very easy way is to talk about the things in your life that have gone wrong.

It is easy to see why this is all true.  We empathize with suffering.  Some part of us is happy that the scars we bear from our most wretched moments are not unique and that others have seen only darkness before them too. Seeing someone who has not suffered incites us against the cruel randomness of the world and causes us to be angry that somehow we have been wronged.

My darkest times came during university.  After my first 2 years I came to the realization that I didn't care about the degree at all.  Some people find validation and inspiration in a degree but I do not.  It is remarkably difficult to work for years towards something that is useful for getting a job but which you do not value at all personally and it certainly took a toll on my marks.  Eventually the university told me that I was no longer welcome to study there.  I remember that day, walking aimlessly along the roads of the university, crying and feeling like I just fallen down a pit.  I had failed, wasted my time, mine and my parents money and shot my prospects to hell all for the lack of a minimal amount of work.  I walked dazed and confused, seeing nothing of my route.

Thankfully the university allows people who have fallen hard to go back and take one more term to try to prove they have changed.  I went back, worked, and my average the next term was up 30%.  They decided that this constituted a real improvement and I ended up getting a degree and getting out of there.  This experience was one of the most valuable in my life and has shaped me ever since.

I was thinking about what I want for Elli in her life and though I certainly want her to experience happiness I certainly want her to understand and be able to empathize with suffering.  The only way to understand another person's suffering is to suffer yourself, so I suppose what I want for her is to suffer misfortune and trials but not too much.  I hope in her life that she can experience hardships, be pushed beyond her limits and become stronger and more empathic for having those experiences.  I hope she spends the majority of her life pursuing and realizing her dreams but I do hope she has those hard times etched into her memory to provide the contrast that makes the good times so sweet.

I won't sit around and wish for my daughter to suffer, nor likely end up wishing people a miserable Christmas.  (But it will be great, misery builds character!  See?)  That said, I will continue to wonder about wishing people happiness.

No comments:

Post a Comment