“Measuring” Happiness
Charles Chu
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This leaves out the fact that even when we lack for nothing materially and even interpersonally (or especially when we lack for nothing, because then we are not distracted by the demands of necessity), our consciousness still torments us, to the point where seeking to soothe and pacify this insatiable inner craving and discontent is one of our major activities and expenses (be it by football, alcohol, opioids, workaholism, religion, or reading articles on the Internet). Taoism, Buddhism, and Stoicism are some of the thought systems that have attempted to confront this directly. What is this bone-deep, incessant dissatisfaction, the ground bass of self-awareness that we hear when all the other noise stops (Henderson the Rain King’s “I want I want I want”)? Is it only human, an artifact of our incomplete evolution, or is it shared by, say, cats and cetaceans, perfected by evolution 30 million years ago? Is it about knowing we’re going to die? Is it just about the ebb and flow of physiological states of need and satiation? Should we strive to extinguish it? Should we harness it to drive ourselves somewhere worthwhile instead of driving us crazy?