13 March 2010

I don’t have the answer, but here’s the problem

A common trap we fall into is to assume that if we could only be someone else, we would be happy. I remember as a lonely single person, thinking that it must be so easy for the hot Asian babes of the world. Later, when I got to know a few hot Asian babes, I discovered that they’re just as unhappy as everyone else. (In fact, possibly more so, because of all the sleazy guys fetishizing them.)

Similarly, it’s tempting to think that if only I could write one of the novels I have notes for, and do it well, and somehow become an acclaimed author, that the sense of accomplishment and the feeling of having created an artwork of lasting value would lead to happiness.

The death by suicide of David Foster Wallace, at the age of 46, shows just how wrong that notion is. He was almost universally hailed as a brilliant author, with even his detractors admitting that he was very talented.

Or consider Thomas M Disch, an absurdly talented SF author, who also wrote criticism, poetry, and Gothic novels set in Minnesota.

We’ve all heard that money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s not just a saying either, as a great deal of scientific research and survey data has demonstrated the truth of the saying. Beyond a certain point, increased wealth really doesn’t lead to increased happiness–unless you give it away.

Another article in the New York Times reports this startling fact:

In fact, a poll of New Yorkers found that those who earned more than $200,000 a year were the most likely of any income group to agree that “seeing other people with money” makes them feel poor.

So if you’re still thinking that you would be happy if only you were someone else–a successful business owner, say, or a famous musician–it’s time to abandon that thought. If you think that being wealthy will make you happy–no, it won’t.

What will make you happy? Hey, if I knew that, I’m sure it’d make me rich.

© mathew 2017