I’ve been reflecting lately on how happy I am, and this makes me nervous.
I love my daughter and my wife, my health is fairly good, at work I’m pursuing a line of inquiry which is fresh and exciting to me, I’ve been reading some good books, we’re finally seeing some progress on the greenway, I’m finally making some progress on another long-stalled project, and so on and so forth.
In short, life is good, and this worries me.
The last time I felt this way, it was quickly followed by bad news.
The time before that, bad news.
In both cases, my personal distress was a trivial thing in the big picture, but it sure didn’t feel trivial to me. In both cases, the “bad news” left me feeling shattered and flattened and empty.
By contrast, today I feel full of life and energy; I feel a satisfying depth to my existence; I feel like an integrated whole. I’m far from perfect, and there’s much to be done, but I relish the work.
I’m riding high now, but am I headed toward a fall?
Of course. Of course I am. Nothing lasts forever, and bad things will happen eventually.
So I’m keeping that in mind and just hoping that this good stretch is a long one.
As I reflected on this further, I was struck by a passage in the book I’m reading wherein Arthur Zajonc notes that suffering “is intrinsic to a life rightly lived.” After all, I would never shed a tear if I didn’t care for those around me. These bad things would not upset me if I was some kind of heartless robot — but who wants to live like that? Suffering is indeed a part of life, which at times cannot be avoided. The important thing is to cultivate equanimity so that when the crisis inevitably comes, it can be confronted with compassion and reason.
Furthermore, “happiness is really not the goal of life.” It’s a side effect, not an end to itself. I will enjoy it while it’s here, and do my best to reflect what joy I can into the lives of others.
I think the anxiety I expressed above comes from forgetting these essential truths. I am feeling better already.