happiness is not intrinsically moral, evening butterfly, shedding old stuff has social benefits

Western civilization has a happiness fetish. In the U.S. while it is not law, we even have the right to pursue it as one of our founding principles. Thomas Jefferson and the Founders each probably had their own idea of what happiness was. None of which included specifics like the right to eat a corn-dog while playing video games or burn rubber in your F350 dually or dumping toxic waste that seeps into groundwater people drink. Not everything that makes one person happy is going have happy consequence for everyone else. Yet if you asked the average person what they want for those they care about, most would probably say they want them to be happy.Why Be Happy When You Could Be Interesting?

“Let’s be serious: when you are in a creative endeavor, in that wonderful fever–‘My God, I’m onto something!’ and so on–happiness doesn’t enter it,” he says. “You are ready to suffer. Sometimes scientists, I read in a history of quantum physics… were even ready to take into account the possibility that they [would] die because of radiation. Happiness is, for me, an unethical category.” It’s also boring.

You can be happy without being moral. You can be happy without being interesting or engaged in the world around you. You can be happy without having a single creative idea or interest or passion. You can get everything you desire, and still not be happy. So why even focus on finding bliss?

H/T to here for this abstract from a study, The “Truman Show” delusion: Psychosis in the global village

Introduction. We report a novel delusion, primarily persecutory in form, in which the patient believes that he is being filmed, and that the films are being broadcast for the entertainment of others.

I cannot imagine this not interfering with having a functional life. Though if it were possible to make a living and otherwise take care of oneself, where is the harm. I tend to perfer reality, but it has obvious flaws. An old movie would explain my point better. In the movie Harvey (1950) ( starring the late Jimmy Stewart, which he called his favorite. Sorry it wasn’t It’s a Wonderful Life)  Elwood P. Dowd has a very dear and probably imaginary friend, a six foot tall pooka rabbit. Spoiler alert: towards the end of the movie Elwood agrees to have a new experimental treatment which will make him normal. During the course of the movie it becomes known that Elwood is a very warm hearted person, caring, naive, ready to be friends with just about anyone ( Elwood and Harvey tend to enjoy liquor at regular intervals). As it appears that Elwood will be cured, you, the audience is horrified at the idea. Let Elwood have his pooka and drink at their favorite bar, what’s the harm. Look around at all the cold, cynical, manic, greedy and otherwise flawed people in the world. People like Elwood deserve protection, not medicine to make them better, or happy like the rest of us.

Elwood also explains that Harvey has the power to stop time: “Did I tell you he could stop clocks? Well, you’ve heard the expression ‘His face would stop a clock’? Well, Harvey can look at your clock and stop it. And you can go anywhere you like — with anyone you like — and stay as long as you like. And when you get back, not one minute will have ticked by. … You see, science has overcome time and space. Well, Harvey has overcome not only time and space — but any objections.”

butterfly evening nectar feeding


Why You Should Give Away Free Stuff To Your Neighbors. because its much easier than moving it every few years? That’s my reason. It’s heavy. I don’t remember the last time I felt like rereading that book or using that bowl.

Today, the online network of Freecycle communities has nearly 9 million members around the world all collecting hand-me-downs from each other’s doorsteps. These people have gone even further than “collaborative consumption” or a “sharing economy.” They’ve created a massive gifting economy.

This old idea that gift-giving communities generate lots of solidarity, does it hold up outside of the lab? We found that it does.

Sociologists have long been intrigued by these kinds of benevolent “generalized exchange communities” (if you’ve ever given blood or participated in a Secret Santa, you’ve been a part of one). What motivates people to participate in them? And what happens to a community when its members willingly give to each other with no expectation of getting anything in return (at least not immediately)?

“This old idea that gift-giving communities generate lots of solidarity, is it true and does it hold up outside of the lab?” asks Robb Willer, a sociologist at the University of California. “We found that it does.”

Freecycle generates feelings of group unity and cohesion [PDF] among the people who participate in it.

It makes me happy to have less crap stuff that always seems to create one collective mass of clutter. In some cases I would sell stuff on eBay except I don’t like eBay or their sister company Paypal. Though better selling old stuff than adding to the local landfill.

Recommended reading, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and StickYou with the Bill) [Paperback] by David Cay Johnston