So according to this David Brooks column, there are four kinds of happiness:
The lowest kind of happiness is material pleasure, having nice food and clothing and a nice house. Then there is achievement, the pleasure we get from earned and recognized success. Third, there is generativity, the pleasure we get from giving back to others. Finally, the highest kind of happiness is moral joy, the glowing satisfaction we get when we have surrendered ourselves to some noble cause or unconditional love.
IDK, this breakdown seems pretty accurate to me.
Material happiness is chill. It’s like the thing I pretend like I don’t need or care about only because I am privileged enough to have always had it. And this in turn breeds a certain kind of self-loathing that seems sort of inherent to Democrats. You know what I mean? I’m not saying I’m a Democrat, I’m just saying. (I’m also not saying I’m a Republican, chill OK?)
Level 2 happiness, achievement, also seems pretty straightforward. Level 2 is like, the “daddy issues” level of happiness.
The art of giving also makes a lot of sense. Giving is the ultimate selfishness because it feels so good. (That being said, you can’t take care of other people until you take care of yourself.)
The final stage is like the kind of thing I’ve always been looking for and maybe the kind of thing my entire generation has been looking for. I mean the things that typically generate purpose for us noobs is stuff like war or religion and we don’t really have those things in a meaningful way—for better or for worse.
All we have is like tech companies and Wall Street.
And IDK, I’ve always felt like I needed this thing the most because I’m the kind of person that needs to feel like he is at least operating adjacent to some sort of purposeful endeavor, call it moral joy or unconditional love, whatever you want—to really get motivated beyond just getting by.
Maybe that is an entitled attitude. Maybe it’s not a healthy attitude to have.
But I have certainly had a taste of what it feels like, you know? When you are just so all-into something. Man, what a rush. It’s the ultimate drug.
And there have been a few false dawns along those lines.
It’s like falling in love with the wrong girl. It’s great until it isn’t. Then, reality.
Maybe it’s not that surprising then that I’ve been single for like, eight years? Damn!
Maybe I just can’t be bothered unless I know it’s true.
Or maybe I’m just shy.
Anyways, incidentally, the Brooks column also touches on modern love and what we’re looking for in marriage these days, according to “one of America’s leading marriage researchers,” some guy named Eli Finkel:
In this conception, a marriage exists to support the individual self-actualization of each of the partners. In a marriage, the psychologist Otto Rank wrote, “one individual is helping the other to develop and grow, without infringing too much on the other’s personality.” You should choose the spouse who will help you elicit the best version of yourself. Spouses coach each other as each seeks to realize his or her most authentic self.
But hey, what about that girl (or boy) who just brings out the worst in you??
That can be fun for a weekend or two.
(Top photo: my dad giving my sister some water in Beijing circa 2004.)