We weren’t built to be “happy”
July 22, 2016 8:39 AM   Subscribe

 

Probably why at 78 I still can't sit still.
posted by notreally at 8:50 AM on July 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


Some people were born to create, maybe. But The System is currently tuned to crank out people who were born to consume. Those people are much more profitable.
posted by spacewrench at 9:00 AM on July 22, 2016 [17 favorites]


Good and bad become irrelevant when the focus isn’t “what can I enjoy” but “what can I create?”

she has obviously never met my asshole of a brain
posted by Kitteh at 9:19 AM on July 22, 2016 [20 favorites]


I am wary of a one size fits all model of anything. It's certainly true that there are more ways of feeling at peace with oneself and our various priorities than just enjoying the spoils of past productivity, but I have to point out that lots of incredibly creative people have spent their lives in deep suffering, and plenty of perfectly contented people roll along in familiar ruts. It's fine to point out that there are options, but this feels a bit like yet another way of telling people that they're some sort of failure for not being satisfied with their lives. I mean, you should be happy to be living on the breadline, think of all the ways it challenges you to create!

Beyond a certain level of stability, dignity, respect and comfort, the greatest dangers to happiness probably are ennui and alienation, but the idea that you don't need anything but creativity for a good life smacks of privilege of every sort.
posted by howfar at 9:23 AM on July 22, 2016 [26 favorites]


You are always creating.

Suffering is what happens when you stop creating.

These two sentences came right after each other in the piece, so I'm having a hard time understanding what the piece is trying to say.


That apparently, Chairman Yang is a millennial female.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:28 AM on July 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Oh, I see you're depressed. It's so unfortunate that you've chosen not to be creative*.

I'm glad that this author hasn't ever faced difficulties in life that she couldn't just express her way out of.

*(I, for one, have agreed to never be creative again).
posted by sparklemotion at 9:40 AM on July 22, 2016 [21 favorites]


These two sentences came right after each other in the piece, so I'm having a hard time understanding what the piece is trying to say.

There's a summary at the bottom, in large type.
posted by effbot at 9:44 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Green is not a creative color!
posted by boilermonster at 9:45 AM on July 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


Short sentences are short. Short sentences. They're easy for us to read. We feel long sentences are bad. They create suffering. Suffering is bad. Small bites of food are easy to digest, so small bites of info must also be easy to digest.

Anyway.... Pathetic ad for a book disguised as an article, the substance of which seems to be: If you create and then you stop creating you can feel anxiety that you're no longer living up to your ability, so you should really try to create. Completely ignores any thought deeper than that, and this entire topic has been covered in much greater detail by almost anyone else (eg. two googled at random...https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Act_of_Creation or The Arts and the Creation of Mind: Elliot W. Eisner).

Also, what effbot said.
posted by Zack_Replica at 9:52 AM on July 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


Good god, save me from the tyranny of "create."

Also, what on earth is her logic here? "We have to create, or we are miserable! But all of the things we do are creating, like working, and eating, and breathing." So...we are never miserable? But the whole article is about how miserable we are because we aren't creating? But we never stop? So why would we ever be miserable?

Legitimately this essay reads like a person taking some powerful psychotropic drugs.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:59 AM on July 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I read it as a different definition of "creating." It's not about putting shit on etsy, it's about shifting your perspective to understand that you don't need to feel like things just happen to you, which can be enervating and oppressive, but that you can understand yourself to be always creating the person you are, the reaction to your circumstances, the relationships in your life. You might be creating a shit sandwich and you might be creating growth and love and yes, artwork.

Yeah, it was simply written. It's a pretty simple insight. And advice doesn't have to be guaranteed to work for every reader to merit being posted on the internet or even here.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:03 AM on July 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


That sounds remarkably like those self-empowerment books management's always wanting you to read so that you'll understand that the things they do to you are your fault.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:07 AM on July 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


Is the idea that
- we have problem-solving brains
- we have (for #reasons) chosen to orient our activity towards an inappropriate target (happiness as passive consumption), and this frustration of our natural impulse is the actual cause of unhappiness (for everyone)
- work saves, something something sublimation (?)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:08 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think what she was trying to get at (and missed because she didn't follow it all the way through) is that "Happy" as a steady state is impossible.

Happy is for birthday parties and trips to the all inclusive Caligula resort with Josh Hartnett. In other words, an occasional event that is intense and awesome, but not sustainable. Contentment is more easily achieved. This is my life, made of these mundane things. But that doesn't sell books.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 10:10 AM on July 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I read it as a different definition of "creating."

I think one difficulty is that it is using "creating" in a number of different ways without being particularly intellectually scrupulous about how they relate to each other. It also teeters on the edge of what I think is an important insight for a lot of people, that individual happiness is far from the only possible personal goal, but ultimately backs away from that and switches to telling us one weird trick to get our brains to make us happy.
posted by howfar at 10:14 AM on July 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


trips to the all inclusive Caligula resort with Josh Hartnett

I fucking knew I was missing out.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:29 AM on July 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


If I define all verbs as the verb create, I can create the creation of my creativity with creating!

I may just be creating this impression in my mind, but that essay seemed especially vapid. It's almost as if the author is nearly onto something, but lacks the creativity to articulate it effectively.
posted by Construction Concern at 10:34 AM on July 22, 2016 [7 favorites]



Good and bad become irrelevant when the focus isn’t “what can I enjoy” but “what can I create?”

When our focus is on creating, pain becomes an integral part of the process. It’s “worth it.” We’re no longer dividing our emotional experiences between “things that feel good to the senses,” and “things that don’t.”


This sounds weirdly masochistic. I mean, straight up "This is something out of a Cenobite's monologue"-type.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:41 AM on July 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


There should be a giant asterisk next to the entire article that indicates it is not applicable to everyone, or most people, or even a modest subset of people. I can definitely relate to "Suffering is what happens when you stop creating" because, for me, it is true. I am much, much happier when I have recently written music than when I am in a period of low creative output. But that is me - and who knows what drives that? I doubt very much that it is fundamental biology and suspect it is a combination of my general temperament along with various correlation/causation errors I made in life which became the foundations of my self-worth.

The article reads like the author just had an EpiphanyTM and needed to share it, at 3am, while the endorphins were flowing strong and the critical eye was still blinded by the light.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:58 AM on July 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


This sounds weirdly masochistic. I mean, straight up "This is something out of a Cenobite's monologue"-type.

Reminds me of "Vintage Season."
posted by praemunire at 11:05 AM on July 22, 2016


This sounds like the exact opposite of meditation.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:06 AM on July 22, 2016


It's flow.

For some of us, meditation is hard, but flow is easy.
posted by bonehead at 11:11 AM on July 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's the same idea as behind "follow your bliss," which Campbell later griped he should rephrase as "follow your blisters."

I'll try and describe it since it's been a huge part of giving meaning to my own life, and I fully comprehend that everyone does so differently. There are people who are happy to think and talk – create relationships, so to speak – as their fulfillment. There are those who are happy to knit, sew, crochet. Those who draw, write, paint, calligraph; saw, router, hammer, drill... Anyway.

There's something very one-sided about discourse surrounding happiness, and that is that without suffering, it's imbalanced; meaningless. The problem with one-sided discourse is that we get so used to it that when anyone brings up its opposite, we assume the opposite is just as one-sided. Thus all the negativity here, with nearly everyone evoking opposites. (On preview, heee.) Why see happiness as being versus pain, rather than the two coexisting? When they coexist, they modify one another.

Happiness is no longer la-la-woo-land when pain is accepted; pain is no longer "run away!!! Run away!!!!" when happiness accompanies it. I studied piano for 20 years. There were times I didn't want to. But I did anyway, because having done it for years, I knew I would want to again in the future. The very few times I did stop playing, I missed piano more than I didn't want to play it. So, I knowingly sacrificed other things, to play piano. Everyone's different; everyone has something in their life they don't always want to do, but know they will want to do.

Following your bliss means following your blisters because you only truly love something when you're willing to sacrifice for it. And sacrifice means pain. A sacrifice without loss is not a sacrifice. This notion of sacrifice is, I think, what she's really missing, but that too is telling – our current iteration of society likes to give the illusion that we should "have it all", but in trying to have it all, there is a massive sacrifice taking place – of the Earth. Whereas if we were taught the value of sacrifice done in awareness, i.e. knowing what it is we're sacrificing, for what purpose, why that sacrifice brings us fulfillment, and what is lost with the sacrifice, we might be doing better on the whole "destroying the planet" thing. That said, small house living sacrifices space; the KonMari thing sacrifices objects; the current awareness of privilege encourages us to sacrifice it for altriustic equal opportunity; so in a way we can see the notion working back into our mindset.

Creativity is always sacrifice too. If, for instance, I knit a sweater with my yarn, then I am sacrificing the ideas of all the other things I could have knit with it. I'm also sacrificing time that could be spent doing something else. See, when you start taking into account the balance of things – creativity, sacrifice, pain (you screw up when creating, always) – you also start to see how it can apply to moderating the excesses of the philosophy. Such as for work. "Go, create, find your fulfillment in your job!" Eh, yeah, but with recognition of sacrifice, we know that after a certain amount of time (40-hour workweeks seem to be just that limit), we're no longer creating much of value, but we are sacrificing something of greater value. When it's balanced, all is well. It's when it's unbalanced that, well, it's out of whack, which is a synonym for imbalance.

TL;DR Taoism. (I'm only slightly being facetious. There are plenty other philosophies with the same idea.)
posted by fraula at 11:13 AM on July 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


Seems like a good day to create a hammock.
posted by MtDewd at 11:29 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm wary of so many descriptions of what our brains were "built" or "made" or "designed" to do. But aside from that, is any of this based upon any sort of empirical evidence or is this just amateur pop philosophy?

The rest of the author's Soul Anatomy website seems to be link-bait:

7 Reasons Strong People Tend To Attract Difficult Relationships
8 Subconscious Behaviors That Are Keeping You From Having The Life You Want
26 Of The Most Mind-Opening Alan Watts Quotes

posted by rocket88 at 12:00 PM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I typed out a big long thing, and then deleted it because it's not worth it.

This is condescending tripe.
posted by naju at 1:20 PM on July 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm glad that this author hasn't ever faced difficulties in life that she couldn't just express her way out of.

Put it very well. I kept thinking, "This was written by somebody who never spent a night in the ER howling in agony, knowing she would probably be dead by dawn." I get what she was trying to say, I think, and I don't completely disagree with it. Suffering is a choice, to some extent. But it's only a choice when you have other options, when you are capable of turning your suffering into something else. I can't even get angry at this author, because I picture her like some pampered, well-meaning teenager wondering why grandma won't just cast aside the walker, go out dancing and have some fun.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:05 PM on July 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


is any of this based upon any sort of empirical evidence or is this just amateur pop philosophy?

Like amateur pop neuroscience is any better?
posted by thelonius at 7:39 PM on July 22, 2016


you know what's really frickin expensive? art supplies. even shitty art supplies.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:52 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fuck u dude. I'm unemployed and have over $300 to pay every month in student loans. How's creativity gonna save me?
posted by superior julie at 12:08 AM on July 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


I spent around 20 years buying into the belief that consumption is bad and creation is wonderful and to lead a good life I should be creative. I love music, so I made music. I love art, so I drew. After two decades, I finally gave in and let myself admit what I'd experienced:

For me, personally, consuming (viewing) art is fun. For me, personally, creating art isn't fun.
For me, personally, consuming (listening to) music is fun. For me, personally, creating music isn't fun.
For me, personally, consuming (looking at) really cool Halloween costumes is fun. For me, personally, making Halloween costumes isn't fun.

I'd spend hours working on something and then I'd finish it and my whole emotional experience would have merely consisted of "I should really make X. Okay, here's a rough draft. Okay, let's change this part here. Okay, let me add this part here. Okay, I should really finish this off. Okay, I'm done. That was boring, but I created something, so that's good, I guess..."

Fuck it. Twenty years is long enough that I think I can be honest with myself and admit that while creation may be super fun or fulfilling or whatever for some people, consumption suits me better. Not buying, per se, but passively consuming. Going to art museums, listening to songs I like, reading books, watching movies, looking at Halloween parades.

I'm very happy that there are Rob Cockerhams in this world, but I don't believe that everyone is Rob Cockerham deep down inside and that their innate drive to create is just suppressed by The System or The Man or The Machine.
posted by Bugbread at 5:55 PM on July 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


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