Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Pursuit of Unhappiness, and the Chaos of Human Nature- Blog Post

(apologies for lack of notification. I've been unable to determine what it is that I actually wanted. This actually follows the theme of this post, and was in part my Eureka moment.)

My thesis is that it is really a popluar but false trope that we want to be happy, and pursue happiness. Since the Presocratics, it has been generally understood that "the good life" in some respect must incorporate happiness. I really don't think this is necessary, and as caustic as the proposition might sound, bear with me. I'll explain my reasoning.

Consider childhood. I'm sure all of you have seen or remember the instance in which a child drops its favorite plaything without a moment's hesitation. This behavior echoes into our adult lives with fundamental similarities, but ever evolving complexity. You may take on new hobbies, for example in an attempt to better fill your time, or read books too occupy and enrich your thoughts, but we never allow ourselves to happily settle into a rut. We are more comfortable seeking happiness than we are in finally acquiring it.

"But Andrew, you fool!" you might be tempted to protest, "Does this not mean that we are still attempting to pursue a deeper happiness that
we have simply not holistically been able to apprehend due to our inability to transcend our own desires?" It's a seemingly fair and common objection I've come to expect, but it falls short on at least three counts. The first is the very fact of dual consciousness - the power of the unconscious mind(s) at play and the almost total inability of the conscious mind to direct their course outside of hypnotic trance phenomena and hypnotic suggestion. Have you ever been in the predicament of wanting something that you are aware is inimical to your best interests? A highly crude and oversimplified example of this concept is alcoholism or drug addiction.
The second reason is that the transcendence from one set of desires to a higher order of desires isn't actually transcendence at all, it is merely substitution. This can even be applied to the understanding of new mathematical theories and higher order concepts which reduces that "aha!" moment to a measurable pleasure blip in the brain. It follows from the previous two that the third is the obvious empirical concern of knowing what "the thing that I'm sure will make me happy" is like. This is the "grass is much greener on the other side" concept. If you will permit the metaphor, It follows because we know we're not transcending to a neighborhood where the grass is objectively understood to be greener, but really just hopping a fence into a different yard. With fistfuls of new grass to examine and appreciate, within minutes we may ask ourselves if this new grass was really ever greener, or if we even wanted green grass in the first place.

The ways in which humans pursue their appetites in a vain attempt to acquire happiness can be mirrored in parallel to Chaotic Attractors seen in chaos theory. In these models, a point exists on a graph that is orbitted by the curved (for this model let's say circular, or elliptical) figures, like a shark circling its prey, but somehow magnetically repelled from reaching the point where the attractor lies on an otherwise empty area in the center.
More curiously is the introduction of multiple attractors that allow for indeterminably random skipping of orbits from one attractor to another.
We can observe this behavior in the real world by watching weather patterns, or the behavior of electrons within electron clouds, where indeterminacy plays a very real role. It is evident that if this indeterminacy is so prevalent in virtually every aspect of nature, both big and small - at least in some way, it must also be worth evaluating if it is present in humans. To put the matter blunty - because I'm pretty sure that it is. The objects of our desire are not unlike chaotic attractors, and our paths of pursuit for our appetites orbit them, and jump to different attractors indeterminably in the process. We are either destined to never reach them, or if we perhaps do - we find ourselves automatically hungering for something else.

My next post will focus on how this affects our culture and how the idea of happiness can be manipulated to take advantage of your appetites. Anti-Lacanians will hate me for this, because we're going to talk about the Big Other.

1 comment:

  1. "transcendence from one set of desires to a higher order of desires isn't actually transcendence at all, it is merely substitution"-

    I'll suspend judgment until I've seen your remaining posts, but I wonder if your remarks apply equally to what I and others call "naturalized transcendence"? No need to emphasize a hierarchy of "higher" & lower in our desires, if we just recognize the phenomenon of desire and its fulfillment as a natural and universal human capacity which, when satisfied, creates what might be called happiness, fulfillment, flourishing, contentment, the good life...