4 Heartless, Logical Reasons to Be Happy

 

There are plenty of reasons to be down about the state of the world.

We’ve got financial crises occurring and then being forgotten and then occurring over and over again in an endless cycle of incompetence and greed.

Cars and buildings and people are blowing up left and right, with various clusters of irrational and fervent extremists to blame.

Governments are becoming more and more totalitarian. Information is being hoarded by the highest bidder. Soulless corporations are taking over people just keep getting fatter and fatter.

And did I mention the impending Singularity? We’ll all be robots soon. Shit.

Despite all this, I think there are a great many cold, logical reasons to be happy that have nothing to do with sunshine, rainbows and spirit animals, and everything to do with nice, clean, rationality.

1. Science is evolving, and so are we

I know, I know, it seems like every time you turn around there’s a new world-ending problem popping up somewhere. If it’s not the chance of nuclear winter, it’s an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s easy to look at this and say ‘well if we would just slow down a bit and stop being so technologically ambitious, we’d be just fine!’ I mean, if we hadn’t developed The Bomb, no Cold War, right?

Wrong.

If we didn’t have the problems we have now, we’d just have a completely different set of problems, and possibly ones that would keep us from fighting back. There will always be problems plaguing us, what changes is our ability to live with them and the quality of life we enjoy beside them.

For example, if we hadn’t developed the Internet and other methods of mass communication, we wouldn’t have nearly as many medical breakthroughs as we have today. We’re coming up with cures to diseases left and right, and surgical procedures have become far more effective and efficient since the Web made the sharing of techniques more doable.

Okay, but now that we have the Internet, we also have Spam and hackers and the possibility of being Rick Roll’d and all kinds of other horrible Web-based problems. Have we really solved anything?

Yes we have. Think about it this way: we’re going to have problems either way, but as we continue to develop – to create new solutions to problems of the past and create new realities for the future – in addition to increasing our quality of life in the meantime, we also increase our chances of coming up with something that is truly problem-ending.

Some new technology or philosophy or who-knows-what COULD conceivably come about that would solve every current and future problem. Maybe it’s a mind-melding device that allows all humans to communicate with and be one with every other human simultaneously? Maybe it IS some kind of Singularity event where we merge with machines and are able to combine the best of the flesh and the bolt and end up with some impossibly excellent superhuman species? Maybe it’s…well, you get the picture.

There’s no way to predict for sure what will happen in the future, but it’s nice to know that we’re going SOMEWHERE. I’m filled with joy every time I see a new invention or hear a new idea: I think ‘we’re just one step closer to making everything all right.’

If we’re not working on a solution, we’re no better than any other animal…the ones that don’t have the brain-parts to even think of trying.

2. The Law of Attraction is bullshit, but being positive actually does help

There’s no voodoo involved in it, but it’s been shown over and over that if you have a positive outlook on life, things just tend to go your way more often.

This isn’t a sign of spirits smiling down on you, but rather the summation of all the little things we do when we’re feeling good and motivated.

When you feel like something is attainable, you’re more likely to keep pursuing it, even when it seems impossible. You’re also more likely to put in extra time and effort, and to see past short-term barriers. Bigger-picture problem solving is also easier, as you will have taken the time to think through the details…if you are pessimistic about the chances of it working, you’ll likely spend more time thinking about escape plans, instead of throwing yourself wholeheartedly into a project.

Positive people also tend to have better posture, healthier bodies and to be more socially magnetic.

Think about it: would you rather hang out with someone who is excited about life, or someone who sits around and mumbles about how bad everything is?

Even if you truly feel that things are going badly, why not be positive and optimistic about the opportunity to change the way things are going? It all comes down to attitude, and at the end of the day, being a pessimist holds you back while finding something to be optimistic about pushes you forward.

Which makes more sense to you?

3. We’re frickin’ alive, maaannnn

This will seen a little nebulous at first, so bear with me here for a moment.

Take a second to really think about reality. Go ahead. Sit back in your chair, feel it give as you lean back; the texture of the armrest under your fingers.

Look at the things around you…I mean, REALLY look at them. This is not a TV show or a cartoon. Everything you see exists in tangible reality. You and your thoughts and your family and your dog are all real.

And you can change this reality. The social constructs we’ve built in our heads are just that: constructs. The rules we’ve followed since birth can be bent or broken. No one knows how we got here or where we are going or if we even really exist (and anyone who says they know for sure is a liar, and probably trying to sell you something), which means that you cannot be wrong in an absolute sense.

Sure, you can do things that don’t fit with the rules we’ve built as a society. It’s not okay to run around naked in most cities, for example. But really, what are the true consequences if you did? What rules can you dodge and twist and dismiss entirely?

Most of what we take for granted as being true and solid and an anchor to cling to is much more malleable than we tend to think about on a daily basis (or even throughout our entire lives, in some cases). There’s so much untapped potential it’s unbelievable!

Knowing this, and understanding that there’s so much you don’t know about yourself because of it…you can’t help but feel pretty good about what you’ve already accomplished from within the confines of perception, right?

4. Nothing you have ever done or ever will do matters

I probably get more complaints about this concept than any of the others on this list, but I think it’s important (and probably the biggest contributor to my own personal happiness).

The world we live on is in constant motion. It’s a complicated machine wherein things grow and then erode away. Living things are born and then die; the organic parts whittled down and reabsorbed into the stew of atoms the make all things, living and dead. Climates shift, compositions change, and everything that happened before is eventually washed away by the sands of time.

At the most basic level, our brains are made up of particles that have arranged themselves in such a way that chemicals have been formed and electrical impulses can be conducted from one side to the other. This allows us to transfer information from different sets of particles that are arranged into the various muscles and bones and nerves and capillaries that make up our bodies, and the end result, after billions of years of evolution, is that we can manipulate and change our environments to a degree that seems almost scary at times.

But what we need to keep in mind is that no matter how much we think we have control over our planet, we are still just footnotes on a very long timeline, and throughout that timeline there may have been other creatures who felt the same way (but are now so totally forgotten that we aren’t even aware they existed).

This sounds like a downer statement – saying that humans are so insignificant that everything you’ll ever do is meaningless in the grand scheme of things – but I like to see it as a reason to set myself free from the inhibitions and responsibilities that come with the alternatives.

If I felt like every moment of live I had on Earth was meaningful and preordained to mean something, I wouldn’t be having nearly as much fun as I am now. I would spend most of my time worrying if I were living up to my purpose, fulfilling my destiny, yadda yadda yadda. Instead, I’m able to take the road that I like best at the moment, make mistakes, have adventures, grow to become the best me I can possibly be, enjoying the time I’ve got, and to help others do the same.

If you had no place to be, no role to fill….what would you do?

These are some of the concepts that keep me moving along through life at the steady clip I take.

Tell me this: What inspires you? What coldly logical reasons do you have to be happy?

27 comments

  1. 5. You write posts that seem to be plucked from my own head. Stop stealing my philosophy – or entering my head. Let me guess, you got that from the vault in my subconscious, didn't you, Cobb – I mean Colin. (Inception reference. If you haven't seen it, I don't know whether I should recommend it. It's entertaining, but didn't provide as much thinking post-viewing as Memento did. Memento still haunts the dregs of my mind to this day. Go see that above all else)

    6. While nothing we may do 'matters', we still have the ability to create, given the tools we have at our disposal, including our brains – which means our creative power has close to UNLIMITED potential. I can craft a world that never existed using only my mind (writing fiction). I can, using the laws of physics and mathematics, draw out a building on paper, composed of 60,000 tons of steel and glass, and make it a reality, provided my calculations were all correct (civil engineering). I can take a metal, or any type of material, and change its properties on the atomic level to make it more heat resistant, more pliable, have better torsional strength, or whatever else I need (materials engineering). I can go up to a person and talk about whatever I want – politics, design, weather, snowboarding, Christmas, summer, the oil spill, and exchange my value that way.

    There's so much that we can create, and we just look down on it, because we haven't been taught to elevate everything we do to the point that it's an art form. But, isn't that what everything we do is? It's creation, since we manipulate our environment to create something that didn't previously exist.

    So, I should really write this: 6. I can make art, anytime, any place.

    7. I believe we live in the best time to live, ever, and being born in a good home in this country is another blessing in and of itself. Yes, the world has its problems, but, as a whole, I'm dead sure that this is the best era to live in the history of mankind. Combined with reason number 1, the logical extension is that the world will only become a BETTER place to live in (provided we find new ways to provide fresh water, conserve resources, and curb overpopulation).

    Excellent post, mate.

  2. There is SO much to be happy about (which explains why I like to smile a lot and see others smile too), in no particular order:

    - Karate
    - Coffee
    - Beautiful nature
    - Books
    - Amazingly positive and spirited people (e.g., #the3some) :)
    - Randomness that happens all the time because you just can't plan everything (nor would we want that all the time)
    - Aesthetically appealing designs and layouts
    - Freedom to pursue our passions and dreams
    - Cute shih tzus

    When there's so much good things happening all around us, why would we want to focus on the negative? It doesn't mean we're being unrealistic and a “dreamer” that lives in our own world, but truly, since we have a choice to view the world with lens of our own choosing, it just makes logical sense to WANT to be happy. So let's do it!

  3. [not so serious question] if we have the technology to figure out all of our problems…why haven't we made a cyborg Colin yet…

    [more serious question]
    also, if you lived forever, would what you do, mean more?

  4. I like to remind myself that one day I am very possibly going to be an elderly person. I imagine the instance in my mind where I am looking back on my life and I finally realize how ridiculous I was to be so afraid of all kinds of things. Getting up in front of people and giving a speech, meeting an important person to me, initiating a conversation with a girl of my dreams, travelling to unknown lands. It helps me to remember this, it drives me to break personal barriers.

    If you can truly understand how insignificant your actions are in the grand scheme of things, you are able to finally let your worries slide right off of your shoulders.

    I very much like this post!

  5. Oh Colin, i wish I'd been as wise as you at your age! Zachary is quite right, at 63 , I look back and wonder why I wasted so much of my life worrying, everything i was scared of has evaporated like mist – to be replaced by by equally scary, but equally ephemeral, monsters!
    All our fears are purely imaginary, what we're afraid of is what our imagination creates – and it can create so much better alternatives, that we can help make real. I may have been slow on the uptake, but better late than never!

  6. Thanks Colin

    What makes me happy is fulfilling on my lifes purpose of constantly creating better things for people to enjoy. Working at pace to inspire others and fit as much into this one and only life I have been given.
    The highest form of happiness tho comes from giving myself completely to the love of my life and my amazing children who are a product of my willingness to give more of myself than I ask in return. True happiness lives in meaningful relationships and if you have that at home then it is likely to spread.

  7. Finding a way to stay positive is so important. And I think that this way really varies from person to person. For some reason, a post you wrote a while back titled Every Day In Lima Is The Best Day Ever has stuck with me. The way you said “Best Day EVER” somewhat jokingly when things didn't go your way is such a great tactic. It injects a little humor into the situation, which is often enough to make it not seem as bad after all.

    So yeah, I totally jacked your 'best day ever' thing and I use it all the time.

  8. Frankly I have always believed that happiness is a choice. We choose to be happy, we choose to be sad. It really is that simple. If we let all the factors that we cannot control (climate, oil spills, etc) effect us then we succumb to doom and gloom.

    Far better to focus our energies on things we can change, on the aspects of our lives that we can influence. If you choose to be happy, you will be.

  9. Number 3 is my favorite.

    “Look at the things around you…I mean, REALLY look at them. This is not a TV show or a cartoon. Everything you see exists in tangible reality. You and your thoughts and your family and your dog are all real.”

    I've actually been sitting in a room, standing on a street corner, riding the local train into the city, and had this precise thought. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the sheer reality of what's around me. It's easy these days to see your life more like a scene in amovie than to realize that what you are touching, feeling, seeing is actually real … I mean, like … really real. Beautiful and overwhelming at the same time.

    About number 4, I would refer you to Nietzche's theory of eternal recurrence. It basically states that events occur again and again and again ad infinitum, giving them a certain gravitas, knowing that every action you take will be repeated indefinitely.

    When you say that nothing we do matters, you contradict his notion, which can be said to invoke a certain heaviness. You invoke a certain lightness. The very one that served as the premise for the seminal novel, the Unbearable Lightness of Being.

    I wrote about this in a recent post, angling the premise more towards buisiness. The post is called “The Unberable Lightness of being Successful.”

    You might find it interesting.

  10. Pingback: Round Up! The U.S. Patent Office Edition — Untemplater

  11. I agree with the bottom three, but the first seems to be a little different. I agree we're getting somewhere with advancing technology, but it seems like the more advanced our technology, the bigger our problems are, and the bigger our problems are, the more difficult the solutions become. Not that thats a bad thing, I think of it as neutral. But I feel like our ability to solve problems has lagged behind our technological progress. Is it just me or does anyone else feel this way?

  12. “Humans are the only species that do not realise we are on the planet to enjoy ourselves.”

    Many years ago, I saw that line on a poster. It was a poster of a panda bear on it's back chewing on some bamboo. As pandas do. My younger self was all “Wow, that is SO true, I'm going to try and live my life by that kernel of wisdom and just lay back and enjoy life.”

    Of course, that didn't happen. Becasue I'm human, and laying back and letting life happen around you without wanting to understand why, or how we could make it better, isn't what us humans do. We explore and invent and try to push the boundaries, and you're right, however much 'interfering' we think we're doing, we're going to be a blip; a blink. We're not going to have that much effect!

    And anyway, that panda wouldn't even be lying there chewing that bamboo if it wasn't for scientists interfering and inventing panda porn to get his parents in the mood!

  13. Thank you for calling out The Law of Attraction. I see WAY too many people in self help circle jerks over this complete and utter bullshit. And you're right, being positive actually does help. Hopefully, more people will see the difference between the two.

  14. Nice one Colin!

    this Questions about life and the meaning of life are always tricky. I think no one's right and no one's wrong. But we're free to choose our very own truth and yours could do very well.

    Best Regards,
    Florian from Frankfurt/ Germany

  15. First of all, you should have a comment box at the end of your comments! I almost thought they were closed for the current post until I scrolled up to the end of your latest post. :)

    Great meeting you – you’re a solid guy and this is inspirational advice, especially #3. Life is a journey of experiences and I’m glad you were along the path! I’ll be in in SE Asia when you’re there – maybe we can meet up for a few days. My email is stevej@ucla.edu

  16. Pingback: Attitude shift « Aesophia's Fables

  17. Pingback: 30 awesome Christmas trees, but the real magic lies underneath!

  18. …and, I think this is required reading for all humans willing to lead a logical and positive life. Additionally, I like the fact that this list is void of bullshit.

  19. Pingback: Just a Big List of Interesting Posts | Exile Lifestyle

Comments are closed.