Tea, Economics, Paint — and thoughts on existence

I’ve got a cup of green tea, three open windows (it is a beautiful 50° F), and a pile of homework due shortly. I’m [supposed to be] working on two multi-part (multi-part meaning over a dozen sub-questions each) economics questions due Monday and my first art project due Tuesday.

After reading about mathematically described recursive data structures all day, I’m taking a little break to write. So, here we are. You, me, and some extemporaneous thoughts to follow:

Well, the holidays are quickly approaching… and that means expectations are in place for everyone to mingle with family and friends. Which gets me wondering if that is a worthwhile use of time. More generally I start to wonder how much time people should really be spending outside of solitude. Refrain from deeply gasping, it will interfere with your attention.

I’ve known a few hundred people, and have had some type of observational opportunity for thousands of others. What I always enjoy discovering, usually directly, is who people are. Specifically, what they want, where they want to be, how they intend on getting there, what’s driving them towards tomorrow, and what other common thought they entertain frequently. Very rarely do I meet someone who can answer those questions.

I know many college graduates that never put their degrees to use. They took on thousands of dollars of debt, only to work in unskilled jobs. So many people detest their employment.

Another common question I like to ask: is the person happy. So often I have seen people flee from the answer, and many times tears accompanied my prying investigation.

Everywhere people enjoy drugs, alcohol, sex, food in excess, etc.

My meandering thoughts are trying to get at a few simple ideas. In my experience, most people do not know what they want or who they are, and happiness is often dependent on things external.

These issues are insurmountably problematic for me, because they seem to warrant the severest form of personal attention, but are so often masked or neglected.

If someone’s happiness has external dependencies, it must be unstable. Revocable, destructible, temporary. A happiness like that would seem destined to cause unhappiness at some point. Assuming happiness is the ideal state, it seems like a person should devote plenty of time to cultivating a stable source of happiness. An internal source. And to do that, it seems like one would need to minimize the external. Spend time alone, with internally spawned ideas, looking for a happiness that can exist when nothing else is there.

Spend enough time alone, and one is bound to uncover things about one’s self. Which eliminates wasted time – trying to find yourself using someone Else’s directions is ridiculous. And once you’re fully aware of who you are, you’re much better equipped to enjoy others.

I’m running out of time to flesh out these thoughts in more detail, but I’m going to revisit these ideas soon.

For now: if you have issues with unstable happiness or an uncertain self, consider spending the holidays alone. The last thing you need is distraction from fixing problems that could potentially linger for life.

6 Responses

  1. Martin says:

    Damn. Being around people doesn’t mean you are not alone and perhaps in that kind of a situation one may never be more alone. Is there a difference between solitude and being alone? I guess it might be similar to the difference between being nude and naked. That being said, why are you in a university and not a monastery, so much solitude there? Maybe it’s not so much about solitude as it is about silence. If you are reading a book are you alone?

    Now that happiness thing is a tricky one, so personal. Happiness is really about self. What about degrees of wellbeing, contentment, happiness, bliss? I would think that bliss is the ideal state, perhaps spiritual bliss. “Everywhere people enjoy drugs, alcohol, sex, food in excess,” but are they happy? It’s late, enough for now maybe more, later.

  2. Martin:

    Spiritual bliss… care to elaborate? Someone that isn’t spiritual can’t reach the “ideal state”? Or is that just your ideal state?

    I’m going to approach these ideas in a piecewise manner, with much more detail, soon.

    I really enjoyed some of your questions, which I’m going to address specifically in the forthcoming posts.

  3. Wow Andrew, for some reason I get the feeling you are having some happiness issues. Maybe you have forgot what happiness is. Other than school and the occasional visit from your uncles, you are always alone.

    I think happiness is based on a combination of things internal as well as external. An internal and external confidence as to our progression as individuals within and out of society. Of course it IS different for everyone, but all based on the same “basic” ideas. But this is coming form someone who, besides college stress, feels very happy with life.

    Maybe you should take a semester off of school and come visit.

  4. Martin says:

    Don’t ignore the perhaps in that statement. Also don’t confuse being spiritual with being religious. If religion is dependent on spirituality does spirituality require religion? Buddhism is today regarded as a religion but was Siddhartha religious or did he attain a spiritual state in his solitary quest for enlightenment without religion? I’m not campaigning against religion here just making an observation. To seek happiness in drugs, sex, food, etc. is as you have observed a foolish quest, confusing pleasure with happiness. I was once given a general anesthetic. As the drugs entered my system it felt like someone had grabbed my skeleton at the toes and slowly drew it out of my body. For a brief moment I remember thinking how unbelievably good it felt. Then before I went completely under I remember thinking that in that state of pleasure I was completely useless and lacked any physical control over my existence. For me that was not a happy state. Happiness is a fabric woven of many threads and each of us weaves our own.
    Economics? What’s your major? Given the state of economics today I’m curious as to what kinds of questions they might be asking a university student. Get any snow today? Columbus, OH had some flurries.

  5. Joshua:

    Hmmm… read again… I never said I was unhappy. Far from it. I was merely following a trail of random thoughts. Which, I think, led to a (partial) conclusion that being alone is necessary for finding stable happiness. Me being alone = no problemo. Quiet = lots of room for thought.

    I’m not sure I completely follow, or agree with, your second paragraph. Happiness that was partially dependent on the external would be partially corruptible. Right? What if there was no external… white room… you standing in the middle… ?

    Please flesh out this statement for me: “An internal and external confidence as to our progression as individuals within and out of society.”

    At any rate, thanks for stopping by… and, of course, thank you for the invite.

  6. Martin:

    Ah, perhaps I did. But, I’d never confuse religion with spirituality. I consider them almost completely independent.

    “…each of us weaves our own,” you say. Interesting. Intangible threads work best, I claim.

    Economics. Humbug. My major. Blah.

    You asked earlier why I’m at a university – the truth is… its my backup plan. I’m just getting it out of the way. I’m an avid learner and excited explorer – but something about too much externally imposed structure crushes my motivation to do either. Which is more than a little unfortunate.

    So, I’m studying economics at one of the worlds “premier” economics schools. As for the questions they ask us… nothing worthwhile unless you have a terrible desire to manipulate partial derivatives and work out three pages of algebra. This school is all theory, you see, so real world questions never come up.

    No snow today.

    You know, I’ve been picking my brain, and I can only remember one Martin I ever liked…

    Have you ever considered teaching? Because very few people can formulate such poignant questions so nonchalantly.

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