Not happiness

 

As they like to point out in evolutionary psychology, we are designed for survival and reproduction, not for happiness. Happiness is just one of many emotions and impulses that guide choices and action, and have been selected for through the generatons. It is one of many “modules” that has a survival and reproductive value for us, and is not a goal in itself – although it certainly may appear that way for us at times.

And it seems that it is the same from the perspective of the universe as a whole, or reality, or God. The universe express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways, in its infinite richness, and one of the ways it does this – at an obvious level – is through evolution. The universe evolves from energy to matter to galaxies to solar systems to living planets to ecological systems to social systems to technology, science, and art, and the everyday experiences of any being – and in all of these ways it express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways. Happiness is one of innumerable facets of how it explores and experiences itself.

In our contemporary western culture, happiness is often seen as a goal in itself, or a sign of success, or even an expectation. Even Buddhism in some of its western flavors get this emphasis on happiness seeking, and at times a de-emphasis on its other aspects such as seeking truth and reality, healing and maturing, humanity, compassion, and embracing the fullness of  our human life.

There is nothing wrong with seeking happiness, but it is good to put it in perspective. And evolutionary psychology, along with the Universe Story (or whatever we want to call the second view outlined above), is a good way to temper our view of happiness as a goal, and place it in this larger perspective.

A focus on happiness and reducing suffering may be very appropriate for us for a while. It is a stepping stone. But if we wish to explore further, other aspects of life opens up and reveal themselves as equally or more important. We may even come to appreciate happiness as one facet of human experience, and as a carrot of great value in an evolutionary perspective, but not as a goal in itself.  

A related and more important question is what is one of my beliefs about happiness? What happens when I believe that story? What are the consequences in my own life? Who would I be without it? What is the validity in its turnarounds?

I need happiness. I deserve happiness. Without happiness I am a failure. I don’t deserve happiness. Can I find these beliefs in myself? When I am stressed and complain about myself, others, or life, is there a belief about happiness there?

What do I think happiness will give me? (Ease, comfort, friendships, success, admiration?) What do I think will bring me happiness? (Friendship, success, money, good health?) And what do I think will ultimately come of what happiness brings me? What do I find when I explore those assumptions?

Note: When happiness is emphasized in Buddhism, it is often part of a conscious teaching strategy, a sales trick, and very appropriate in that sense. If you want to sell something to a culture where happiness seeking is central, why not emphasise the happiness facet of what you are selling.

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  • not happiness
    • evolution perspective
      • survive and reproduce
      • happiness one facet, a carrot, but no goal in itself
    • universe/god
      • express, explore, experience itself in its infinite richness
      • happiness one facet, but not a goal in itself
    • what does this mean?
      • emotions/happiness/discomfort etc. a guide
      • more pragmatic approach
      • notice “shoulds” – question
    • our culture
      • happiness seen as a goal, a sign of success, an expectation etc.
      • reinforced by one interpretation of buddhism in the west
        • that it is about happiness, or reducing/eliminating suffering – one facet
        • instead of truth, compassion, humanity, fullness of life etc.

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Initial draft….

As they like to say in evolutionary psychology, we are designed for survival and reproduction, not for happiness. Happiness is just one of many “modules” that has a survival and reproductive value for us, along with the other emotions and impulses in our lives. They all guide action, are selected for through the generations, and are not goals in themselves – although they may appear that way for us at times.

And it seems that it is the same from the perspective of the universe as a whole, or reality, or God. The “goal” of the universe seems to be to express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways, in its infinite richness. This happens through the evolution of the universe as a whole, and for galaxies, solar systems, planets, living planets, ecological systems, social systems, technology, science, art, storytelling, and individuals organisms. Through all of these, the universe expresses, explores, and experiences itself in always new ways. In the case of humans, happiness is just one facet along with all the other experiences in a human life.

In our contemporary western culture, happiness is often seen as a goal in itself, or a sign of success, or even an expectation. Even Buddhism in some of its western flavors get this emphasis on happiness seeking, and at times a de-emphasis on its other aspects such as seeking truth and reality, healing and maturing, humanity, compassion, and embracing the fullness of  our human life.

There is nothing wrong with seeking happiness, but it is good to put it in perspective. And evolutionary psychology, along with the Universe Story (or whatever we want to call the second view outlined above), is a good way to temper our view of happiness as a goal, and place it in this larger perspective.

A focus on happiness and reducing suffering may be very appropriate for us for a while. It is a stepping stone. But if we wish to explore further, other aspects of life opens up and reveal themselves as equally or more important. We may even come to appreciate happiness as one facet of human experience, and as a carrot of great value in an evolutionary perspective, but not as a goal in itself.  

Note: When happiness is emphasized in Buddhism, it is often part of a conscious teaching strategy, a sales trick, and very appropriate in that sense. If you want to sell something to a culture where happiness seeking is central, why not emphasise the happiness facet of what you are selling.

………………

And it seems that it is the same from the perspective of the universe as a whole, or reality, or God. If existence has a “goal”, it seems to be to express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways, in its infinite richness. The universe evolves from energy to matter to galaxies to solar systems to living planets to ecological systems to social systems to technology, science, and art – and in all of these ways it express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways. Whatever happens is always new anyway, and it is obviously so through evolution. One of the ways the universe explores and experiences itself is through human experience, and happiness is one facet of human experience along with innumerable other.

……..

A related and more important question is what happens when we have certain beliefs about happiness. What happens if I believe….. I need happiness. I deserve happiness. Without happiness I am a failure. I don’t deserve happiness. What is true in the reversals?

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