Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Theory, part II

A couple of posts ago, I argued (a little bombastically, I admit), that the central concern of life has has to do with those ineffable tastes of happiness and unhappiness that flavor our experiences. Understanding the maddeningly slippery nature of these qualities is really the driving motivation of our lives, I suggested. In our heart of hearts, every man and woman would like to undersstand happiness and unhappiness, and have some degree of competence at courting the one and escaping the other.  Pretty much all other endeavors are slightly muddied or disguised forms of this central instinct. 

And so this means, very simply, that a well-lived life becomes an honest study and appraisal of the causes of happiness and unhappiness, and testing out methods of cultivating the happy and weeding out the unhappy. 

I'd submit that every religion, every spiritual practice, every cultural endeavor, all forms of science,  can really be boiled down to this basic elemental wish:  "I want happiness.  I want to be free of unhappiness."  Keeping this idea in the forefront seems essential to an understanding of self and others. 

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