We watched the film In Pursuit of Happiness the other night on a recommendation of a friend.
It was an interesting watch, surprisingly downbeat for an American film i thought.
And today I realised that what keeps us pursuing happiness and what allows us to avoid being stuck in doom and gloom are one and the same thing.
Yes, we adapt.
I’m sure the psychs of this world have bigger more meaningful theories and expressions, but I like simple.
When the going gets good, we adapt. We adjust our comfort meter and want more, or don’t think what we have is enough. And so what was good or even great becomes, ordinary and everyday and we want more of it or more of something even better.
We adapt, and in adapting we set ourselves up to both succeed and fail.
Now that is a kind-of weird and spooky thought.
So is happiness borne of contentment. Stupid and happy may be less a criticism than I thought.
And the other side of the coin is when things don’t go our way. When situations are new or even frightening or dangerous – or all of the above.
We adapt – or those that survive do – the others get eaten, run over, or pull the rip-cord at the wrong time.
And when we adapt we diminish the things which at first were so strange and we re-frame them. Reframing is something young children do much more easily than adults because their neural pathways to what is normal or good or bad are not nearly as worn as that of an adult. my youngest daughter does it so quickly I’m not sure she has any frame of reference!
And fortunately as we assimilate our new environment it becomes more survivable.
Ultimately we survive, and the lucky ones even thrive, no doubt they are the happy immigrant stories.
And it is rather sobering to think that the same skill which can undermine our happiness can relieve our unhappiness, and even deliver happiness.
Lastly, there is one happiness i will never tire of. It’s the happiness of my children. It is so dynamic and so incredibly constant at the same time that i can never ‘adapt’ to it and never be tired of it.
Is the art of happiness based on not adapting?
On always marveling and always being grateful for what we have?
On never taking for granted what is around us, from loved ones, to clumps of earth, falling leaves and shooting stars?
I think that just may get you close, but not too close.