Choosing Happiness, Part II

Between Order and Chaos

Continuous despair is both undesirable and dangerous, but continuous joy can be boring. Most people like to choose the intermediate region (if you will allow me my affinity for chaos theory), because it holds more novelty.

I came to this conclusion from observing two marriages. Despite all the things one married couple had in common, despite the fact that every one considered them a great match, they still had some awful fights. Another couple came from divergent backgrounds and had comparatively little in common. For various reasons, people thought their marriage was challenging and difficult to sustain. Yet the second couple was at least as happy as the first. The first couple amplified small differences. (Update: relevant story on Weekend Edition Sunday) The second couple attenuated large differences. Both couples engaged each other in the intermediate region. They did not choose order, simply to enjoy each other, nor did they choose chaos, to split up in despair.

Although the intermediate region may be full of novelty, it is still our choice to be in it or not.

I do not claim that it is an easy choice. We cannot cut ourselves off from the environment or other people. The environment can affect us in such a way that an enormous expenditure of willpower is required to choose happiness. However, once you acknowledge that the choice exists, you find that it is both necessary and sufficient for happiness. Nothing else is necessary or sufficient.

In the next part, I’ll consider how our choices affect our children’s happiness.

Tags: Philosophy

Updated at: 30 October 2013 2:10 PM