This is a formal exploration followed by an informal proposition. Drafted on September 30, 2012.
Author’s note: I feel as if the rampant negativity present in this work might reflect incorrectly (and badly) on my character. My aim in writing this was rooted in the writing itself, not the content. In other words, it was more important to me that it was well-written and well-structured than correct. That being said, the slightly offensive nature of some of the positions in the exploration and proposition are necessarily so, because offense is the best stimulus for discussion – some of which could be insightful. I don’t claim endorse any ideas of the text. Keep in mind, the writing is an exploration of one view, not a statement of fact about a subject.
An Exploration of an Aspect of the Human Condition
Bitterness is a cantankerous quality that increases in predominance as a function of age. Cynicism is an unfortunate philosophical neurosis that tends to affect intelligent individuals. Melancholy is a debilitating web that often ensnares the artistically genius. Such is the case because age, intelligence, and artistic genius correlate positively with the depth of an individual’s analysis of life. A higher age means more time spent in existence, which in turn means more time to analyze existence. Intelligence is a measure of the processing speed of one’s cerebrum, so a higher intelligence would definitively mean a higher rate at which analysis of existence occurs. Artistic genius, which is almost universally linked to intelligence, is a result of both a large quantity of time spent in introspection and a sensual sensitivity to the surrounding world. These qualities, when present in an individual, lead one to spend a large amount of time and mental energy engaged in the analysis of life. This is to say then, that there is a connection between a thoroughly analyzed life, and a life plagued with bitterness, cynicism, and melancholy, as well as countless other plights that have been omitted for the sake of convenience. The reason for this connection lies in the fact that deeper analysis of life unveils a simple, hopeless truth: human existence abounds with unhappiness.
There is so much unhappiness surrounding and perpetuating the lives of every human that it is hardly objectionable to posit that unhappiness is an integral part of the human condition. However, this position is in need of two clarifications. Firstly, that unhappiness is distinct from sadness, and secondly, that it is a composite part of the human condition, as opposed to a simple one. Unhappiness and sadness are distinguishable because unhappiness is the lack of something positive, while sadness is the presence of something negative. Although similar, the distinction between these two terms is very important, because to say that sadness is an integral part of the human condition is to declare that the universe has a will and purpose to impose negativity on the lives of an organism. Unhappiness, on the other hand, is easily recognized as an inseparable part of human identity, and this made even clearer when it is compared with common pitfalls of existence such as lack of fulfillment, the human fear of lacking life (i.e. anxiety about death), and the lack of answers. The latter of these is one of the bases of the Absurd, which is the conflict between the human desire to find inherent meaning (the big question about the meaning of life), and the human inability to do so (the lack of answers to the question). Since finding fulfillment, sustaining life, and deriving answers are causes of happiness, the multiplicity of methods for inducing this positive emotion already shed light upon the compositeness of the lack of this positive emotion which is so intimately bound to human existence. In other words, unhappiness is not a simple component of the human condition because it is caused by multiple things, or the absence of them thereof.
Having established that unhappiness is a composite, integral component of the human condition, and that it is distinct from sadness, it is a logical step to explore the composition of unhappiness. However, since the breadth of the composition is so multifaceted and complex that many thousands of words could not clearly portray it, only one source of unhappiness will be explored. It is a fair assumption to make that the primary cause for unhappiness is also an integral part of the human condition. This cause – this part – is the human desire for more. It is the desire to have more, be more, own more, create more, and so on using countless other infinitives which would create a “litany of more”. Each one of those infinitives can be further expanded. For example, a human may desire to have more money, more muscles, more respect… a human may desire to be more intelligent, more knowledgeable, more loved… In this fashion, each infinitive in the litany of more could have countless more nouns, adjectives, or adverbs appended to it in an endless and infinite derivation that would accomplish nothing but demonstrate the universality of the human desire for more.
If this intrinsic quality of humans – the desire for more – is a primary component in the composite part of the human condition – unhappiness – then it is safe to assume that unhappiness is largely composed of a failure to satisfy the demands of this quality. Obviously, if the desire for more was satisfied, humans would have one less significant source of unhappiness. Thus, it is safe to assume that humans fail to satisfy their desire for more.
Before exploring the nature of this failure, the ways in which humans attempt to fulfill the desire will first be investigated. There are two main ways that most individuals strive to accumulate the infinite things listed in the litany of more. These ways are fundamentally opposite to each other. They are a dichotomy; they are a duality. The inherent existence of the duality is debatable, but the existence of the concept of such within the bounds of human language is provable. Therefore, the existence of a concept of duality within all human thoughts and actions is highly likely, since human language deeply influences human thought, which in turn is responsible for human action. Showing that there is a concept of duality within human language is simple. First, there is the existence of the word “opposite.” Humans have predominantly subconsciously compiled lists of opposites in their minds. When presented with the word “good”, the opposite “bad” or perhaps “evil” is not too far off in subconscious thoughts. Likewise, love is the opposite of hate, slow is the opposite of fast, tall is the opposite of short, and so on. These are commonly accepted opposites, so it would be equally accepted to look at the pairings in a slightly different manner. Let love and hate for a dualistic relationship, and likewise for slow and fast, tall and short… Duality is ever-present in language, and is for this reason equally as present in human thoughts and actions. As a result, the actions and thoughts that humans go through in order to meet the demands of the desire for more are of a dualistic nature. The two methods employed are either to attempt to fulfill the desire for more by accumulating more achievement, skill, possession, and more, or to attempt fulfillment by accumulating more problems, difficulties, and hardships in both the past and present. In other words, one may take the path of fulfillment and the path of negative distinction.
While the path of fulfillment seems to make sense without much further definition, the path of negative distinction seems at first counterintuitive. However, not only is the second method of accumulating “more” a very logical responses to the desire posed by the human condition, but it is also more widely used. Problems, difficulties, and hardships set one apart from others just as effectively as merits, achievements and awards. The difference is that they do not require effort. They either can be sought out, or happen involuntarily. It is the economy of human effort that leads many to choose to seek more problems. In other words, it is sloth, laziness, and the tendency to choose the path of least resistance. To be fair, some are involuntarily put on this path through hardships not within their control. However, it is the same economy of human effort that leads them to take the path further, instead of fighting the current and taking the path of fulfillment. It is for this reason that humans often seem to acquire, synthesize, or even fantasize new problems. In a way, the depressed individual is almost proud of his depression, because it shows he has suffered more, endured more, and done countless “more” things than others. While the path of fulfillment may lead to boasting, the path of negative distinction invariably leads to complaining. Upon further examination of the nature of complaints, it can be found that they are almost identical to boasts. Often, complaints are comprised of extensive lists of events that have occurred, are occurring, or are about to occur. Take this complaint for an example: “My mom yelled at me, I’m failing school, and I’m going to have to break up with my girlfriend because she’s moving to Alaska.” The structure of the sentence can remained unchanged, and with some simple replacements, the complaint will become a boast. Observe: “My mom is so proud of me, I’m currently acing all my classes, and I’m going to fuck my girlfriend tonight because she’s fucking sexy.” The similarity between complaining and boasting is very apparent. This is because both acts are a bid for recognition. The path of fulfillment and the path of negative distinction make an individual prone to boasting and complaining, respectively.
Both paths lead to bids of recognition, because recognition is the unit by which an individual’s progress in attaining all described in the litany of more is measured. Just as measuring length would be futile without the knowledge of whether one is measure in centimeters of meters, measuring the relative success of one’s attempts at fulfilling the desire for more would be a fruitless endeavor without a unit of measurement. More is a comparative word. You cannot have more wealth if there is no one to have more wealth than. You cannot be superior if there is no inferior. You cannot have more problems, if there is no one else with fewer problems. For this reason, no matter which path one takes, it is simply a path towards attention-seeking.
Regardless of how one seeks to fulfill the desire for more, all will fail. This is clear simply by looking at the words. More is not a static word. It is a constant drive. No matter how much one has accumulated in the present, there will always be the desire to have more of that in the future. In layman’s terms, it is never enough. Nothing will ever satisfy. If one takes the path of fulfillment, it often times may turn out to be a twisted bastardization of the other path in the dichotomy. Failing to fulfill one’s own standards is the ultimate “problem.” One makes an ultimatum with himself, demanding that he either prove his own value to himself or should he fail, languish in self-rejection. The end result of this ultimatum is consistently self-rejection. If one takes the path of negative distinction, he will eventually become disgusted as he realizes the falsity of his own subconscious sense of superiority. Also, the nature of this path makes it so that many problems, difficulties, hardships are acquired. These things, though having more of them may temporarily abate the desire for more, are very obviously in themselves sources of unhappiness and even sadness. Thus it is not logical as a way of avoiding unhappiness to take the path of negative distinction, even though it was shown to be logical as a way of pursuing the fulfillment of the desire for more. Furthermore, the unit of measurement – recognition by others – is unreliable and hard to determine. It can be said that since it can only be gauged by personal observations of others’ observations of the person, there is a very high instrumental uncertainty when determining the amount of recognition one has accumulated. What makes success in truly achieving the litany of more is that recognition itself is something that humans desire more of. For these reasons, humans universally fail in satisfying the desire for more, which is a large factor in the unhappiness of humans, which is itself an integral part of the human condition.
A Proposition to Mitigate the Unhappiness Caused by the Desire for More
My proposition, which is essentially an opinion as to how we, as humans, can become less unhappy, is that we practice auto-diminution. This is a reduction in our own importance, significance, and distinction. We must realize that we are not special, different, or imbued with a meaningful purpose to fulfill.
The reason for this is that it eliminates many of the endless derivations from the litany of more. While by definition, no component of the human condition can be completely purged, the desire for more can be mitigated by means of auto-diminution. Auto-diminution eliminates the need to be more special, to be more important, and to be more significant. It eliminates the desire to have a more meaningful life, to have a more distinguished reputation, and to have a more prestigious academic record.
Auto-diminution is the solution to social elitism! It is the medicine for arrogance! It is the fast answer to absurdist and existential ponderings! Just realize people, you are fucking insignificant! You will be so much happier that way, because you will stop trying to get more of everything, be more than everyone, and do more than life permits.
What do I propose instead of either the path of fulfillment or the path of negative distinction? This: biological consonance. I posit that we will be happy if we strive to act in accordance (i.e. in consonance) with our biological impulses; with the characteristics dictated by genetic codes and developed through natural selection.
We are here to have sex and to reproduce. Therefore, if we act in constant consonance with these two tenets of existence, happiness will come more easily.
This is not to say that auto-diminution and biological consonance hold the secret to defeating unhappiness. In fact, it would not be a good idea to completely banish unhappiness from existence. Indeed, how would we know happiness without unhappiness? It is impossible for one to exist without the other, and the intensity for which one may have happiness is often dictated by the depths of unhappiness into which one has previously fallen and experienced.
However, by the time one reaches an introspective understanding that is comprehensive enough to consider living out the tenets of auto-diminution and biological consonance, he will have undergone enough suffering, sadness, and unhappiness to make him perfectly capable of feeling happiness very acutely.
This is also not to say that one should completely stop trying to attain things such as academic achievement, a good salary, or artistic distinction. After all, these things all make an individual more competent and attractive, which furthers his biological drive to survive and reproduce. Let us compete, for there can be no natural selection without competition! Let us love, for the survival of one’s offspring often depends upon a caring and stable relationship between compassionate parents! Let us enjoy the lifestyle of the hedonist, so long as it does not damage one’s standings in the biological race.
This proposition may seem selfish. After all, it’s basically saying this: do whatever you can to have sex, because that’s a biological urge and you are made to fulfill biological urges. However, selfishness in inherent to humans, and it is this way because natural selection has caused our species to universally exhibit this characteristic. Thus, selfishness helps the human race survive. In this way, selfishness is also a deep-rooted concern with the well being of the entire species. Therefore go, survive, and reproduce, you insignificant speck!