memories & happiness

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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27 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    Less is MoreReport

  2. Avatar Andy Smith says:

    Reading Lehrer can be dangerous. First he tells us that satisfying desires not only does not end them, but leads to more craving. Then he claims that through our social relationships, each of us helps reinforce the cravings of others. The next thing you know he will be suggesting that the real point to life should be to struggle with our desires. Where have I heard this message before?Report

  3. In my humble opinion this issue is ego-based. (But show me a good issue that isn’t!)
    When our fellow earthlings learn to overcome their egos the world will be a happier place.
    As long as The Joneses are buying Rolexes and trips to Paris, there will always be someone relinquishing control to their egos, and feeling inferior until they, too are jetting off with extravagant timepieces attached to their arms. Or suffering depression because they can’t.
    However, those people who know the Joneses and aren’t ruled by their egos, will be happy to continue to live their Happy Lives, making memories which contribute to their happiness and finding joy in their daily lives.
    Those who live from their heart and not their ego will find more pleasure in fish n chips on the beach with those they love, than any lavish meal in Paris (which of course the ego-driven would feel compelled to broadcast to all and sundry.)
    Heart people find joy in life – ego people find short-lived joy in empty showing.
    I suggest we all find our hearts and banish the ego asap.
    Live Life Happy!Report

    • That’s tricky though. My ego is far and away more boisterous than any other part of me. It shows up to all the meetings. It’s never late for an engagement or a debate.

      Seriously, though, it’s true. It happens at every level, and the competition thing between neighbors, friends, family – it’s not always bad, but it’s only really good if you’re self-aware, or having fun.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I don’t know what they mean by “happiness” in this article.

    For example, I can’t, for a second, imagine a Rolex making me happy. I’m trying to imagine someone who would be made happy by a Rolex… and my brain is only coming up with 2-dimensional characters who do things like say “look at my Rolex” and “this? oh, it’s a Rolex”.

    The stuff I associate with “happiness” is generally associated with stuff like “sinking into my bed next to my wife in my bedroom in my house after doing stuff at my job (or with my wife, depending on the day) and having accomplished stuff”. I don’t know what the emotion might be called for the feeling one has when one has a brand-new Rolex… but “happiness” doesn’t come to the forefront.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Jaybird says:

      A Rolex would make me happy. I’d sell it and buy a new computer. Or maybe a new bike. Either one of those things would increase my happiness level – not a lot, but a little, and I can do a little. The big happiness factors are like you say – sinking into bed. The wife. The kid. Etc.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        A Rolex as an instance of something that can be exchanged for goods/services is a Rolex I can understand being pleased with. A Rolex as a watch (one you can’t even play Pac Man on!) is one that I cannot understand. I feel like one of the elves. “You can’t eat it, you can’t sleep on it, you can’t make it into a sword. It is of no use.”

        Except, of course, it’s still a watch. So it’s got that going for it.

        It just strikes me that the key to happiness is to go to sleep (around the same time every day) and to do so when exhausted. The one thing that the happiest days in my life all had (and have!) in common is that I accomplished something that day and went to bed tired.Report

  5. Avatar Trumwill says:

    I think that one of the things worth noting about buying things or memories is that both can pretty quickly lose their marginal utility. My parents go on two or three cruises each year. I doubt that any one cruise they go on means as much to them as my last cruise, ten years ago, meant to me. Meanwhile, it’s a *big deal* when they get a new computer. I have as many or more computers in three different rooms of my house. Any individual computer means more to them.Report

  6. Avatar Chris says:

    Thorstein Veblen covered this ground pretty well in Ch. 2 of “Theory of the Leisure Class”…far as I can tell he didn’t perceive a substantive difference between invidious goods (Rolexes) and services (going out to dinner):
    http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/VEBLEN/chap02.htmlReport

  7. Avatar Sully Fick says:

    You really have to love it when Americans talk about happiness and money, because it reveals their true nature very clearly.

    Shorter E.D.: “Spend your money however you want and don’t go into debt. That will make you happy!”
    (I’m sure the 38 million Americans in poverty will all be happy if they just live within their means! Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses?)

    Shorter Jaybird: “Work until you are exhausted every day and you’ll be happy!”
    (According to the Working Poor Families Project – based on Census data – for those families living in poverty, a parent: “worked on average 2,552 hours per year in 2006, the equivalent of almost one-and-a-quarter full-time workers.” What’s their problem – they work hard and accomplish things every day – why aren’t they happy?)

    Shorter Jonah Lehrer: “Spend money on memories, not on things, that will make you happy!”
    (As long as you are above the poverty line, you should spend more money on things that will give you good memories, rather than on a Rolex or Lexus.)

    Shorter Sully Fick: “Stop thinking that everyone else is White and Middle-Class. Not everyone else’s life is as good as yours.”

    Happiness ain’t a thing in itself – it’s only a contrast with something that ain’t pleasant.
    – Mark Twain

    Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Sully Fick says:

      I’m not sure what you mean. Do you mean that poor people should not live within their means? Would spending more than they have make them happy? Also, did I not say that money alone isn’t directly correlated to happiness but that staying within your means will better preserve that happiness?

      I think that you doth protest too much. This is not an examination of the middle-class vs. the poor.Report

      • Avatar Sully Fick in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        I mean that living within your means does not provide happiness. Concurrently, living outside your means does not provide happiness.

        And, yes, I read what you wrote about “preserving happiness”. In fact, your conclusion seemed pretty straightforward to me:

        if you live within your means, money will make you happy, or at least it won’t hamper your happiness.

        and this:

        But if you live within your means…..you’ll be happy because you stayed within your means and didn’t lose control.

        That seems to be saying that if you live within your means (regardless of how small your “means” might be), money will make you happy. Have I read that wrong?

        And, I think that having enough money to live above poverty is more of a direct determinant of happiness than living within one’s means. You may not consider this to be an examination of middle class vs. the poor because you seem to want a simpler answer (Responsibility!). However, there is an ocean of difference between someone who has disposable income and someone who does not.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sully Fick says:

      Shorter Sully Fick: If I twist the arguments of the people I disagree with, I can make their arguments look twisted!!!Report

      • Avatar Sully Fick in reply to Jaybird says:

        It just strikes me that the key to happiness is to go to sleep (around the same time every day) and to do so when exhausted. The one thing that the happiest days in my life all had (and have!) in common is that I accomplished something that day and went to bed tired.

        Shorter Jaybird: “Work until you are exhausted every day and you’ll be happy!”

        Where exactly is the twisting, Mr. Jaybird?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sully Fick says:

          The difference between “this is what worked for me” and “this is what you need to do”.

          It may be a completely different experience for a libertarian to read those sentences and someone with more of a statist bent. Indeed, a statist may see very much how the second sentence is implied (indeed, demanded!) from the first. Libertarians, however, don’t necessarily make that leap.Report

          • Avatar Sully Fick in reply to Jaybird says:

            I think the difference you propose is quite gray, especially when your words were:

            “It just strikes me that the key to happiness is to go to sleep (around the same time every day) and to do so when exhausted.”

            It certainly doesn’t seem to be twisting your words to summarize that as “Work until you are exhausted every day and you’ll be happy!”

            Perhaps, your point about “it strikes me” was meant to refer to “this is what worked for me”. However, it could also be read as referring to “in my opinion” and not “what worked for me”.

            I think a fair reading of that is that you were saying “here’s my opinion of what you need to do“. But, it’s quite a stretch to claim I was twisting your words into something radically different.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sully Fick says:

              “It certainly doesn’t seem to be twisting your words to summarize that as “Work until you are exhausted every day and you’ll be happy!””

              It depends on how you read “it strikes me”.

              If you read anything that follows that as “thus this needs to be written in stone!!!”, I imagine that you’d come to the conclusion that I was telling you how to live.

              It strikes me that that would be twisting what I said, however.Report

              • Avatar Sully Fick in reply to Jaybird says:

                “It strikes me” does not equal “this applies only to me”. In fact, this type of phrasing at the beginning of a statement is most commonly associated with “in my opinion”.

                You are noting that these are your thoughts, and you don’t have any research or numbers back up your point.

                It is much more common to say “In my case”, or something to that effect, to note that you are offering your own anecdotal evidence of the things that worked for you.

                And, I wrote “here’s my opinion of what you need to do”, not “thus this needs to be written in stone!!!”. You seem to have twisted my words a bit, Jaybird.

                Exeunt.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sully Fick says:

                So let’s say I said “in my opinion, the key to happiness is to accomplish something every day and go to bed tired”, you would have found that worth restating as “Work until you are exhausted every day and you’ll be happy!”?

                I stand by my original interpretation of your interpretation.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sully Fick says:

          Additionally, the words “accomplished something” were chosen deliberately.

          Indeed, I’d say that the happiest pre-marriage I have ever been was when I was working at a cafe/bakery making a quarter more than minimum wage. People came to me hungry and I gave them to eat. They came to me thirsty and I gave them to drink. They came to me cranky with low blood sugar and I was cheerful and flirty and they left in a good mood.

          I was like Jesus.

          Since then, I have held jobs where the work I did was burned in front of me at the end of the day. There were days where I showed initiative (I put together a list of servers that had 24×7 support plans but were housed in a server room in a building that only had 5×10 people manning it) and was slapped down and told to know my role. At the same time, I watched people who did nothing but goof off from the moment they arrived to the moment I left receive the exact same paycheck that I did despite my doing my own and their fair share of the work. I made three or four times as much as I did in the cafe… but went home feeling like I had accomplished *NOTHING* despite having worked hard all day.

          Indeed, I am willing to stand by what I said.

          “It just strikes me that the key to happiness is to go to sleep (around the same time every day) and to do so when exhausted. The one thing that the happiest days in my life all had (and have!) in common is that I accomplished something that day and went to bed tired.”

          If you want to twist that into me saying “Work until you are exhausted every day and you’ll be happy!” seems to completely misunderstand (deliberately?, I’m wondering) what I have said.Report

          • Avatar Sully Fick in reply to Jaybird says:

            I’m confused now. You talk about “accomplishing something”, but your comment seems to be focusing on meritocratic work and recognition from your boss(es).

            You accomplished big things (putting servers that had 24×7 support plans but were housed in a server room in a building that only had 5×10 people manning it), but felt that you accomplished nothing because you were “slapped down” by your bosses and the Layabouts got paid the same amount as you.

            Do you need recognition to feel that you’ve accomplished something? I certainly don’t. Hollywood burned that desire out of me a long time ago.

            There have been countless times where I was in the same experience that you describe. I went home feeling tired and frustrated that I did not receive recognition for my extra efforts. But, I always felt that I had accomplished something. You Libertarians have a strange way of viewing the world if you need recognition to feel that you have accomplished something.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sully Fick says:

              And now we’re talking about my experiences.

              For the record, I stand by my interpretation of my experiences.

              Feel free to try to twist them some more, though. Hey, maybe I’m blinded by false consciousness!Report

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