The question of happiness

Normalem
4 min readSep 15, 2021

It is an illusion to think that the more active one becomes, the freer one is. Byul-Chul Han

Yesterday, while doing the dishes, I wondered for the first time: what makes me happy? And just, immediately, I thought: and why should I be happy?

Both questions left me blank, reflecting. With a little shame I accepted that I didn’t really know. The questions, in fact, were a surprise.

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All my life I have acted considering purposes, selecting them according to what I say I want or desire. I mean, I’ve lived under the non-explicit premise of chasing what I want. However, what I want has always been something scattered, with a rather ephemeral concretion: one day I think I want something and the other I feel that I no longer want it.

Only recently have I understood that my desire has felt more like a demand. I have said many times “I want” because I have felt demanded to want something. «Not wanting» has always seemed like an embarrassing position to me.

The one who wants nothing does not perform, he does not advance, he cannot be fulfilled. The one who does not want is empty, irrelevant, lacks identity and a place in the world. He who «wants nothing» is quickly relegated to the margin, to the distressing position of being marginal, disconnected from the world.

In this way, I have «wanted», and I have worked hard, and I have not only wanted one thing, but several things at once. I am an exemplary case, of the many exemplary cases of our day, of a busy man. I have always walked around with different projects and different occupations in sight. In this way, I have proposed ambitious projects, businesses, political militances, philosophical disquisitions.

And as I washed the dishes, I asked myself: have you been happy? The answer was blunt: no.

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Just because I have wanted a lot of things does not mean I have accomplished a lot of things. I am far from being a successful man. On the contrary, shame is a recurring emotion inside me. My experience as an adult has been rather mediocre. Most of the projects I have tried to pursue have been abandoned halfway through. The demand of wanting, and striving to gain an identity in the world, a place that makes me part of something, has not given me much. The initial impulse quickly fades away.

I get easily bored, or a feeling that things are nothing more than a deception becomes apparent, usually sooner rather than later. In that sense, the demand of wanting often becomes a demand of «keeping the want.»

My relationship with the world has then become an impotence.

Meditation, psychoanalysis, exercises, recreational drugs, philosophical readings, and literary exercises have all been quests to overcome impotence. In them I always sought the authentic want, the true one, with which there is not an effort to maintain it.

These searches were a journey, no doubt, they helped me understand many things, but they did not give me the want.

And then I wondered: what makes you happy? And I knew in the instant that I did not know, but almost at the same time the demand came once again: you must do this, you have to do the other thing, there is no time to «waste.»

***

Often, I have thought that my fundamental mood is that of the border line, or that of the depressive. Like border, I have interpreted my variations in wanting as variations in my identity, as attempts and experiments typical of someone who does not know himself. Like the depressive, I have also interpreted my circumstance as that of a loser, of someone who simply does not have the ability and agility to capture and move at the pace at which the world moves. The «right» to be happy, if so, is completely overshadowed when, at the outset, something is wrong with oneself. To perform better, to improve, there becomes the imperative.

***

I do not know what makes me happy and I do not know if happiness is a right for every person, which they must also fulfill. But I dare say that I have at least managed to understand that a life energized by pure demand is, after all, an ephemeral life. Contrary to what one might think, a life of demand being a life of great achievements and great emotions, for me it has been a life of lost and tired emotions.

And even though I know that I speak from a «privileged» position, since fortunately I have never had to endure hunger in my life, I do not know what to do with these questions I have asked myself.

Should I search for what makes me happy? And if so, how do I look for it? how do you know it is happiness? And then, where I perceive something important is enclosed: can one be happy in a world like ours, without institutions, without community, flooded with publicity, hyper-competitive and voracious, poor in spirit?

I try to remain thoughtful, refusing to give in to the demand of performance, accepting, humbly, loneliness.

Author Jorge Carrasquel
Explorer at Normalem

This posts was launch in Normalem’s Blog — The Posting Press in September 15 2021 with the same headline.

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Normalem

T-shirted examinations on work an meaning. A few disoriented guys trying to regain a sense of entrepreneurship in a world of would-be billionaires and messiahs.