“Give destiny a destination”
-Tomi Ungerer? (On his biography film)
“People are responsible for their own happiness”
-Steve Smith (Red Green)
Quotes are cheesy, and easily written off. The two above quotes are given from an obscure children’s author and a CBC comedian, but the sources of these quotes are irrelevant to what I am going to say.
I’m talking about these quotes today because I heard them recently and they are bouncing around in my head. The first one is a little bit of word play, and is probably more likely to inspire eye-rolling. In general, I think it is hack-ish to put much emphasis on precise way someone else has said something. But, but, but other people have thought about something they wanted to communicate, and sound-bit it for us to meme out over.
Anyway…the first one implies that you have power to choose your destiny. By using the word give, Ungerer (or whoever said it) places the ownership and authority of destiny in the hands of the listener. Isn’t that nice? It relates to goals and realization thereof. However, there is more to it than that, because it implies that goals are more or less arbitrary, which they are: nobody will tell you what to do or why, even though you were (if you are like me) raised expecting the great “They” to tell you what you should strive for. The truth for Ungerer is that, without something to work towards, you are likely to get distracted, and fail, or forget, or lose motivation.
The second quote puts us in charge of our own happiness, but also prevents us from getting caught up in other peoples’ problems. So why aren’t we/they responsible? Because we can’t know one another, not really. Trying to say/do the right thing at the right time all the time is impossible. Good intentions don’t belie results, and if anyone put in a sincere effort, it most certainly would come at the cost of her own happiness. This system wouldn’t aggregate if everyone looked out for everyone else all the time, so nobody does, not successfully. Nature abhors a vacuum / takes the path of least resistance / keep it simple stupid. AND people respond to incentives (ooo economics) / organisms respond to stimuli. How powerful is the sensation of helping someone when you are not sure you actually helped? I also just don’t believe that people are wired to feel true altruism, not in any significant way (but I don’t feel like justifying this point here, a future post perhaps).
How much time do you spend thinking about others’ happiness? Your own? Why would that mental pie be sliced different for the others out there…are they idiots? saints? are you and idiot or a saint? Probably not.
It makes us alone: freedom to choose, that is. Many fail, most may fail, even, maybe nobody does not not fail. Who knows if this is a realistic expectation, happiness? I like to believe pondering happiness holds some piece of the puzzle to happiness. I have John Stuart Mill to acknowledge for this idea. He supposedly argues in Utilitarianism that an enlightened individual, if given the choice for blissful ignorance and melancholic enlightenment, would choose enlightenment (I haven’t read the source material). The blissful idiot misses the comfort or excitement of knowledge, and suffers a blander life, and probably watches a lot of television (with the exception of The Wire), and is ultimately the slave to the clever culture hawks at HBO. I suppose my bias would be to believe that ignorance is a short run return in happiness at the expense of a long run deep satisfaction that comes from growing knowledge.
Finally, don’t be lazy. The active thought on this issue will benefit you. Language fails to bleed into other beliefs the way that thoughts do, because a brain works in many directions at once, not left to right. Ok, so you say to me: `Fuck you, you ““don`t be lazy““, and learn to write properly so we can figure out what you are talking about.`
Fair enough, but I`m not responsible for your happiness, and this writing was an exercise for my own purpose. You`re on your own. I don`t car.