On the duty to be happy

January 3, 2015

 

I am sitting in the heart of Europe's beaurocracy, in Brussels, and reading big announcements for the historic year 2015. As United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary, Ban Ki-moon's message is: «In 2015 we have the opportunity to move humankind toward the future we want«. It should be the year when sustainability will become common sense and a meaningful and universal agreement about climate change should be adopted. 


Great plans! I am happy to hear this! And I am looking forward to these milestones. And I will surely try to follow the development of these topics in this blog. 
 

So what is “Brussels blues” about?

This blues has no intention to be depressive, as the word is often understood. The term may have come from the term "blue devils", meaning melancholy and sadness. And today there are a lot of things and thoughts that make us feel like this. But before we are sucked in this black hole of self-pity, let us search for the opposite. 

 

Happiness, the bright goal of our existence. 


It must be something about this book that a dear friend borrowed me on the last day of 2014 as I mentioned I should finally start writing a real blog.

 

A New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin is so painfully American that I almost put the book down, but somehow she succeeds to catch the smallest things of everyday life that are invisible for the majority but matter for a large number female individuals all over the world.

 

It is about a project of happiness, a plan that she worked on for a year and became an immediate success. A blockbuster bestseller, that spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list, including hitting number 1, has sold more than1.5 million copies, and has been published in more than thirty languages.

So, happiness is the feeling, the desire we could live or die for. In fact it's a philosophical topic that dates back to the very beginnings of the discipline. And today we still consider it as a very important issue. As Bruckner explained for Guardian
"We should wonder why depression has become a disease. It is a disease of a society that is looking desperately for happiness, which we cannot catch. And so people collapse into themselves."

 

Oscar Wilde once said, as we are happy we are always ok, but when we are just ok, we are not necessarily happy. So it is all about personal definitions. Sometimes we feel happy just if we manage to maintain an order, simple habits of everyday life.

Pascal Bruckner talks about perpetual euphoria and explains how habit can be an energy-saving tool. You don't need any new moves, decisions, you just use reflexes as rituals. This gives our life a rhythm and, in a way, security. It is cozy and predictable everyday life. Tomorrow is a copy of yesterday, repeating rituals are comfortable but exhausting. There are no contrasts, content is hardly visible, anger, love and hope stay in a vacuum and nothing happens. Our attention is spread to hundreds of unimportant tasks, formalities, small talks – these don’t make our life, but it can surely make us tired. Bruckner named it stress. A vital concentration that enables us to maintain the minimum level of this secure everyday life. 

Bruckner uses a comparison that Kant made. We go to school to learn how to obey, be on time and stay still. The concept of efficiency according to Kant means that we were once fickle, naughty and rollicking, but now we are good and reliable.

Reliability is considered today as an added value crucial to maintain the mechanism of society, to achieve goals and to gain profit.  Even if most boisterous and maladjusted individuals are in fact more creative and can sometimes show results in relatively short times, they usually bring disorder, unpredictable adventure and fresh wind. They are rarely rewarded, people rather just close the windows. 

To live your life for those 40 hours a week to maintain your stability in everyday life is understandable. However it would be more honest to work to have a happy life and especially, to gain some free space to start with new habits. Things that you miss and you would really love to do.

Only if we change ourselves, we can start changing the world. To move humankind to the future we want.

Gretchen Rubin has made it to a movement and she is, as many others, right in one thing. It is the way to the goal that makes us happy, not the goal itself. 

At the end I don’t really wish you a happy New Year. Have rather a challenging and unpredictable journey! 


Cheers. 

 

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