The Pursuit of Happiness

What is the point of prosperity?

Though few people ever voice this question openly, the general assumption is that prosperity and wealth increase happiness.  The pursuit of happiness (famously grouped with “life” and “liberty” in the Declaration of Independence as an inalienable right) has become the pursuit of prosperity and wealth.

That physical comfort and security grease the skids of happiness is self-evident; living a hand-to-mouth existence inside a cardboard box is not as conducive to human happiness as having a comfortable home and secure income.

But it is equally self-evident that a secure dwelling and income do not guarantee happiness; rather, they provide the physical foundation for the much more elusive qualities of happiness.  We can make the same distinction between the civil liberties that underpin the pursuit of happiness and the actual pursuit of happiness.  The first is a political system devoted to safeguarding liberty; the second is a messy, dynamic process that continues through all of life.

If the basic political and material foundations for the pursuit of happiness are in place, we might anticipate a broadly happy society.  If prosperity and wealth are causally linked to greater happiness, we might expect to find that prosperous people are generally happy.

America has great material wealth, but is happiness as abundant as wealth? And if not, why not?

Numerous psychologists have made a career of studying happiness, and as with all social sciences, the field is wide open for cherry-picking data to support a prepackaged view.  But data from studies of happiness is suspect for the usual reasons.  People tend to report what they sense is expected of them; they tend to make themselves appear more successful (i.e., “happier”) than they really are, and the results can be skewed by the questions and procedures of the study. 

The vast majority of such studies of happiness are conducted within a specific cultural mindset.  Happiness is an individual issue.  Fundamentally, “it’s all in your head” and “the system enables happiness, so unhappiness is your fault alone.” 

The “fix” for unhappiness in this paradigm is a carefully apolitical network of pressure relief valves – counseling, therapy, motivational speakers, and so on – all focused on “fixing” the flaws within individuals that are assumed to be the exclusive cause of their unhappiness.

As a result of my work writing Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change, I now question the assumption that our happiness is disconnected from the society and economy that we live in. What if unhappiness is not only just an individual failure, but also the consequence of a deeply distorted society? If this is the case, prosperity in the sense of material wealth cannot possibly yield anything but the fleeting pleasure of consumption.

A Radical Critique of Happiness

Though we think of happiness as a private pursuit, in aggregate the pursuit of happiness becomes what we might call a “public happiness.” As author Garry Wills observed, public happiness is the test and justification of any government. If individual happiness is made difficult by the State, then that State must be judged a failure.

Public happiness is not just the aggregation of individual happiness; it is a reflection of the social and political orders' success in enabling the common good, one expression of which is the potential for individual fulfillment.

In our carefully cultivated cultural atmosphere of individuality, it feels like heresy to question the assumption that individual fulfillment is apolitical.  This Status Quo breaks the causal connection between private alienation and the political order so that the atomized individual doesn’t connect his own unhappiness with the sociopathologies of the consumerist-State social order.

The isolated “consumer” doesn’t look at the social order as a potential contributor to his unhappiness, but instead looks to religion, psychotherapy, or medications as private solutions to the sociopathology he inhabits.

The spiritual and psychological traditions of religion and psychotherapy serve as coping mechanisms for individuals as they navigate the many challenges of human existence.  Intended to provide insight and solace for the voyage through life, these traditions were not designed to analyze pathological social orders. They are apolitical because they address problems from the point of view of faith and inner understanding.

That we have no field exclusively devoted to understanding systemic sociopathologies is not surprising once we understand the politics of self-interest.  How many mortals would place their own prosperity at risk by undermining the intellectual foundations of the Status Quo to which they belong?  History suggests that few individuals have the courage to risk status and wealth by undermining the social order that bestows their perquisites.

Social orders that excel in creating and distributing what I term social defeat will necessarily be populated with unhappy, depressed, anxious, and frustrated people, regardless of the material prosperity they possess.

In my lexicon, 'social defeat' is a spectrum of anxiety, insecurity, chronic stress, powerlessness, and fear of declining social status.

One aspect of social defeat is the emptiness we experience when prosperity does not deliver the promised sense of fulfillment.  Here is one example:  A recent sociological study compared wealthy Hong Kong residents’ sense of contentment with those of the immigrant maids who serve the moneyed Elites. The study found that the maids were much happier than their wealthy masters, who were not infrequently suicidal and depressed.  The maids, on the other hand, had a trustworthy group – other maids they met with on their one day off – and the coherent purpose provided by their support of their families back home.

The “American Dream” (as well as the “Chinese Dream”) presumes the opposite would be true, and this explains why reaching material abundance is not the promised fount of fulfillment: It fails to recognize the other necessary conditions of human happiness. It is a monoculture of the spirit, as brittle and prone to collapse as any other monoculture.

Sociopathology and Stress

The physiology of stress illuminates many of the dynamics that we see manifesting in the poor mental and physical health of the American populace and in their passivity in the political and financial realms. 

There is a growing body of evidence that unremitting stress has a number of subtle and destructive consequences to both mental and physical health. In addition to the common-sense connection between chronic stress and hypertension, evidence is mounting that obesity and other so-called “lifestyle” diseases are causally linked to stress-related conditions such as inadequate sleep and chronic inflammation.

Western medicine traditionally divides physical and mental health, but it is self-evident (as Eastern traditions have long held) that the mind and body are one.  The physical consequences of mental stress make this abundantly clear, as the powerful hormones that we experience as “mental stress” erode the immune system's responsiveness.

Behaviorally, stress fuels addictive disorders by breaking down the self-control that inhibits destructive bingeing, impulse buying, unsafe sex, and drug/alcohol abuse.

The consequences of chronic stress are multiplied by our reliance (or perhaps more accurately, our addiction) to digital media and communication.  Clinically, these manifestations have recently been termed Attention Deficit Trait (ADT), a broader, more inclusive term than the more familiar Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

ADT manifests as distractibility, inner frenzy, impatience, and difficulty in setting priorities, time management, and making informed decisions.  As these loop into positive feedback, previously competent people become harried underachievers who berate themselves for their inexplicable loss of competence.

ADT, unlike post-traumatic stress disorders triggered by a single event, arises not from a single crisis but from a chain of events that in less stressful times would be considered “a bad week” but in chronic stress are experienced as an unending series of emergencies.  The response – to try harder to keep up and successfully manage the crises – only increases the stress load and sense of failure as the ability to rationally analyze and pursue plans degrades with each perceived emergency.   Making matters worse, the conventional American “solution” to being overwhelmed is to avoid expressing these difficulties lest this be interpreted as complaining or an equivalent personal failure.

This is the consequence of pathological chronic stress being normalized.  An accurate description of the condition is dismissed as whining, and the truth-teller is instructed to keep his head down and his nose to the grindstone.

With the rational mind and self-control centers suppressed, we are prone to zombie-like passivity – in effect, “sleepwalking” though life. This dynamic may help explain Americans’ remarkable political passivity as their civil liberties are curtailed and their financial insecurity increases.

The stresses created by these pathologies are not abstract; rather, they lead to the self-destructive behaviors that are now ubiquitous in America: impulsiveness, addiction, abuse of drugs and alcohol (which are often attempts to self-medicate social defeat), obesity, impoverished sense of self, low level of fitness and vitality, inability to concentrate or complete coherently organized tasks, high levels of distraction and passivity, and a loss of resilience and self-reliance.

This is not to say that all disorders arise solely from pathological social orders.  A percentage of the human population is genetically vulnerable to mental disorders, and life itself is filled with challenges and unwelcome surprises that create stress.  Since it is self-evident that the financial and political order we inhabit influences our mental and physical well-being, what are the long-term consequences to individuals living in a sociopathological system of financial neofeudalism, an autocratic, expansive Central State that enforces extremes of wealth and power and an unparalleled corporate marketing/media propaganda machine?

Anyone who claims these pathologies have negligible effect on individuals’ well-being is either in denial or is a well-paid shill for the Status Quo.

The net effect of chronic stress results in the ability to implement coherently organized positive plans – the foundation of fulfillment – being severely impaired.  This explains why happiness is so difficult to understand and why it is even more difficult to sustainably pursue in a pathological system that disrupts our capacity for rational analysis, self-control, and coherent action.

Consumerism, Happiness, and Power

The notion that increased consumption leads to increased happiness is self-evidently false, yet consumption remains the focus of our economy and society.  The appeal of consumption is understandable once we grasp that it is the only empowering act in a neofeudal society where we are essentially powerless.

In the mindset of the consumerist economy, purchasing something feels empowering because the act of consuming is experienced as renewing our sense of identity and social status. But since that identity is inauthentic, the sense of euphoric renewal is short-lived and soon defaults to the base state of insecurity.

Since the consumer is only empowered by buying and displaying status signifiers, the balance of their lives is experienced as powerless – that is, a chronic state of social defeat.

In the act of consuming, the only feature that continues on after the initial euphoria fades is the debt taken on to make the purchase.

In Part II: Finding Authentic Happiness, we consider the foundations of a sustainable pursuit of happiness outside the sociopathological Status Quo.

Click here to read Part II of this report (free executive summary; paid enrollment required for full access).

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Charles as usual you give a very meaningful essay and food for thought. Frankly, I enjoy most all your essays, and todays was easily digested. 
I happen to believe that things generally fall in the middle between two extremes, Deflation and Inflation for instance.

Destruction of money seems always to be immediate, so is the creation of money just as immediate or is the destruction side of the ledger always ahead, and if a Recession? If this be the case as it appears to be then before reflation and an inflation can begin this must work itself out, and quite possibly get out of hand. Yes? The hoarding of cash by industry and manufacturing seems to indicate that business is quite concerned that this money destruction could be severe. That it would actually benefit them as this would free up demand, and expansion would be better finaced with what would be a stronger dollar. If they are considering expansion at all. It may just be they want the cash to survive a horrible collapse in order to just fight another day. Your thoughts.

I have a question: You used the Triffn Paradox in a recent posting that I found interesting and provocative. I used it here at PP, and it basically was dismissed out of hand. Could you defend this position a bit more as it would help bring clarity for me.

Chris Commented:

" Thank you for posting that Bob.

Triffin’s dilemma is something that I have studied before and it seems both intellectually sound and verified by events. Unfortunately it conflicts badly with the desire to keep printing money to spend on things at a faster pace than actual economic growth and so it has not garnered much serious attention at the higher official levels."

Naturally, I was wondering too if that serious attention at the higher level included Bernanke because as we know he is doing a bang up job.


Gregor has risk of collapse off the table. Are these your views also or without stating your views here do you have an essay I could go look at to get your views. Mine are that  RISKS shouldn't be taken off the table just yet. At least not until the economy can stand on its own, and IT CANNOT. I DO NOT understand why Bernanke went with QE3, and have now figured it was in reaction to some sort of Panic of what may be on the horizon In spite of the fact that the Fed has all current information, and I would assume then they had the estimate that the unemployment rate would hit 7.8 percent then why initiate QE3? Isn't this solid news?. Which is why the economy must not be so pretty for he didn't do this for political reasons correct? The Fed is independent I am told. I haven't ask Jack Welsh yet but I will presume that The Fed are seeing something that scares the hell out of them. I know our Congress and the Fiscal Cliff is going to be contentious and scary enough. Europe, China, Japan? 

Respectfully Given

Go Tigers


Hi Bob:
My sense is many people have trouble with the Triffin paradox for two reasons: one, they assume the dollar should crash as the price of phantom assets crash, and two, they focus on domestic issues because they live in the US and do not focus on the USDollar as the reserve currency used by others.

The key to understanding the Triffin Paradox is to understand the dollar as a marker of global trade. If other countries sell stuff to the US, they  get USD.  The USD is unique in that it is a currency that can serve as reserves for credit extended in the owner's own currency. So if everyone wants to expand their monetary base, they need to hold more dollars. To get enough dollars into central banks to meet these needs, the US must run a trade deficit, a current account deficit. 

Ironically, as global trade drops off there are fewer dollars available as reserves. This increases the value of outstanding dollars.  

Scale matters.  The monetary base  of the USD is $2.8 trillion.  Global financial assets total $160 trillion, and FX (foreign exchange) markets trade $2-$4 trillion a day. Global trade is in the trillions of dollars. The "printing" everyone focuses on in the US is very modest in terms of the USD's international role.

In another irony, as write-downs, deleveraging and falling values of phantom assets occur, cash (USD) remains in strong demand as people need cash to live and pay their debts.  In other words, cash becomes more valuable as other assets decline. People start selling everything to raise cash, pushing the value of "stuff" down and the value of cash higher.

Lastly, there is no intrinsic reason that gold and the USD can't rise in tandem against commodities and other currencies.

I hope this helps further a discussion of a complex and non-intuitive issue.

Charles I have been studying this Triffin Paradox all morning and early afternoon. Chris motivated me to understand, and you initiated this, and I'm enthused so poor it on.
So, when the world was nearly ready to dump our debt in the fall of 2009, and purchase the Euro we again got a break. The Euro crisis hit and we get our reprieve, Now this has obviously been weakened still since Europe are having some very serious issues right now, fact is their imploding. The dollar still stands strong as the liquid currency.

I mused on China and Michael Pettit (hat tip to Mish) has a strong case building that China isn't quite ready for Prime Time just yet.

Further, because and since 2009, world trade has all but stopped, Dry's and train traffic/trucking, etc… and is this the mechanism that makes you pretty confident of the dollars rise in the future? If so, and if we could find some serious solutions to our fiscal problems then it seems likely that we escape a crisis of the dollar, and the Reserve Currency status we enjoy would be further strengthened correct. Sort of put the issue to bed for a good bit longer? I had trouble wording this so I think there's enough to get the gist of what I'm asking.

Charles, I have no stature what-so-ever in all of this, I am just an enthusiastic student. In saying this though it doesn't mean you need to simplify things for me, I'll get it, and do the research.

Any serious articles with regards to the Triffin Paradox/dilemma would be appreciated as I would know it is meaningful research. So Chris or Charles set me up. Please.

Note: Adam's honey should be sold to the world because I have had so much energy since I received that batch. Just 1/2 spoonful a day. My planned Ham will get none of this prized elixir. The jar and a spoon is on my desk as I write.



Numerous psychologists have made a career of studying happiness, and as with all social sciences, the field is wide open for cherry-picking data to support a prepackaged view.
Ooo. That is so naughty. The scientific method demands that you offer your peers stones to lob at your little model. If your little model doesn't sink then it is elevated to the august stature of a Theory. You have got to admire the humility of scientists. It has been hard won with countless embarassing vignettes.

BTW  My secret of happiness is a good nights sleep and a full tummy. It doesn't get any better than that. The endorphine levels are nicely controlled in a healthy individual.

Arthur, if sleep fails you and you don't eat enough then to compensate for the unbalanced endorphin level I strongly suggest  1/2 teaspoon of HONEY! Honestly, what an amazing product.
All the Best


Up until a few years ago happiness was measured as those with the most doctors, teachers, welfare, etc, but a paradox was found where the countries with the most of these things also had the highest rates of depression.  It was originally called the 'Easterlin Paradox' and only now is being taken seriously.  I did an essay on this subject recently and here is a comment I posted elsewhere.

I have recognised a trend in how expectations of a livelihood as dictated by a country and its quest for economic growth affects people. See this website for that shows suicide by country, and before you read into it note that within a country the demographics change significantly.

Hypothesis: Suicide is caused by expectations about a livelihood as silently dictated by the state, a country, and its culture.

Swiss, eastern europeans, aboriginal australians, koreans and japanese don’t seem to have alot in common at first but look a little deeper. They all have expectations that are too high for realistic achievement. With aboriginal australians, shanty town lifestyles are illegal.  People are expected to maintain a lovely pristine apartment or house in a little town where there is no work for them.  Often they won't leave that small town because of their roots.  The eastern europeans were thrust into the modern world in 1867 with the start of the Astro-hungarian empire, and this autonomy caused alot of suicide.  They went from being farmers to builders of the new world with industrialisation.  The scandinavians lead the world in wealthy living.  They set the highest example in the world. 

Now consider those with the lowest rates including Brazil, Papua New Guinea, south-south east asia exluding china, Africa, and the mediterranean countries like Greece, Spain, Italy. The base level expectation is a shanty town or traditional village or simple multigenerational home.  Now I know you are thinking about the suicide in Greece, but read on.  By branding the world as undergoing an ongoing GFC, is actually relieving people of heavy expectations.  We can now live simpler happier lives, with less.  Poverty definately does not contribute to suicide.  Its the expectations about livelihoods.  The Greeks want to stop this suicide, and accepting a Great Depression, will help to stop the suicide.  I've lived in Brazil for a year and New Guinea for over 13 years and seen it for myself.  Many people in Brazil have never even heard of someone else committing suicide.  The shanty town is easy to manage, its thrown together, you don't need a filing cabinet to keep track of all your paperwork, its just simpler living, and accepted or institutionalised into Brazilian society.

Now to exceptions within a country.  There is a tribe in Brazil that recently lost its land and the people are being displaced. Now these tribal people wear loin clothes, and could not even integrate into Brazilian shanty towns because they lived a subsistance farming life. They know no other way. They are an exception in Brazil, and are committing suicide – see link

I feel sorry for the scandinavians and wealthy germanic countries because when the GFC is felt there, they have the furthest to fall.  Could they envision going back to living like Vikings?  Without the raping and pillaging of course.

I found more evidence by comparing Russia and Brazil.  In the 1930s Russian life changed from Agricultural practices used for centuries to complete government control over those practices.  Russians have lived under a theme of control for decades.  Even in society there are many strict societal taboos about how you sit, what you do in public, etc.  Now take Brazil.  There are practically no social taboos in Brazil.  Anything goes in Brazil. 

Conclusion: Suicide is caused by expectations about a life.  A life with little expectation is free of stress and happier.  A life with high expectation, from society, or the government, of its people, makes life stressful, causes depression, and suicide. 

I also found that a better word for expectation may be 'entitlement'.

Many have studied other factors that may cause depression including levels of sunshine, genetics, alcohol, etc, but the worldwide population clearly shows that genetics or sunshine could not cause depression.  The aboriginal people get alot of sunshine.  They may make it worse but they aren't the underlying cause.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I apologize for being naughty :slight_smile: but the most striking thing about the study of happiness (or well-being) is the dearth of core theories backed by numerous studies.  Eveyone's got a new angle to explore but very little ever ties back into social expectations and structures, which is why Bientum's comments are so insightful.  Combine expectations with social defeat and you have a way of analyzing societies which are generous or stingy with the foundations of well-being.

Interesting theory, bientum. And Charles Hugh Smith? Lovely article. As someone who never bought into consumerism and fled the Northeastern US Megalopolis at her earliest opportunity, I applaud both of you for pointing out that the butterfly of happiness can't be bought and firmly pinned to a card, and then be expected to make our hearts flutter and defibrillate us as we writhe under a mountain of debt.
And it tracks with my research for writing a book. There are two themes I see over and over again in older divorced women,  and I believe these themes are symptoms of the larger malaise you outline, Charles. The first one sets you up for the second one, which is consumerist-based. First, there is what I call the Disney Trap: the Western cultural expectation–taught at the subliminal level–that someday a young female's prince will come and solve all of her problems. The second theme is the mature fruit of that lie: what I call the "Dallas" Syndrome, after the classic nighttime soap opera/celebration of materialism. The Dallas Syndrome is my term for so many women's, "if only you'd been more successful, I'd be happy" belief that kills so many marriages. Recreational shopping on credit to try and buy happiness will kill a marriage just as surely as unaffordable mortgage payments on that (now underwater) McMansion to impress the mythical Joneses. Yes, they believe that enough money, and the things money can buy, will make them happy.

Money is not purported to be the root of all evil, the LOVE of money holds that distinction: and you don't have to possess money to love it. Consumerism is, at its heart, is all about caring more what others think of us than we do about the welfare of our wallets and loved ones. Show me your flashy automobile, large well-furnished home, trendy wardrobe and other status symbols and hide your crushing deb burden and sleepless fears of insolvency and the shame of discovery that it is all a sham, will you? I'll see that and raise you my debt-free peace of mind. You can have your stress. Attention Deficit Trait (ADT) was a very interesting clinical diagnosis and, yes, it explains the zombie-like consumerist sleepwalk that aflicts so many of my countrymen. And that's an unecessary evil.

Well, I can say for a fact that I have never been more upset than I am this morning. I have NEVER considered suicide but I have always wanted to have the ability to zap by remote anything I have seen that doesn't please me. Valverde would have been zapped at the end of the game last night, and possibly tasered before that!
2-2 and NOW do or die

Hat tip to the A's

My Brother played for the A's and Billy Martin (that was cool)

Verlander today and I hold my breath

Goooo Tigers


Safewrite, I hope you complete your book on the ideas you outline here, they really hit home–the subliminal social-control myths are like templates that get embedded early on and we are not even aware of them until we read an analysis that uncovers them. Thank you for your comment, which will undoubtedly ring true with many other readers.

The sequel to the book I linked to, Better Dating Through Engineering (which is for older women), is a coming book for older men looking for a responsible and sane mate - Better Dating for Men. Three years ago I happened to marry a man who was tossed aside like driftwood at 50 by a woman who bought all those cultural lies. He actually apologized to me for not having a larger home, when his was paid for, adequate and sustainable. His ex spent twice what he earned a year in her pursuit of "happiness," and blamed him for her unhappiness. He is now co-author of my second book, and the cultural blind spots I mentioned figure prominently in the book's advice for avoiding a toxic marriage.

Safewrite, I have oftened complimented you, respectfully, and you just keep on adding to a very positive impression of you.
I have been married for 38 years to a well educated Woman (who educated herself while married, raising two son's and working part time. She graduated with honors and distinction in nursing) who always was complimentary of me because I could see something out of nothing, and had the energy and skills to turn a run down structure, and inexpensively create visual value. When finished it was a clean representation, a solid base for which to live. My Lady always made my works a home. My wife and I to my knowledge have never had an argument about money, and we started with nothing. We were two young kids with a child and off we went. I was 19 my Lady 17. We look back, and nothing has changed except for the fact that we still understand it isn't what you have, it is that you have each others that truly matters.

I wish you well always as I just think you as a very solid person. Very nice are every thought you put to print.

Less is more is certain, and frankly will be reality anyways, like it or not because finite resources, and in particular Oil will just make it so.

Charles, this Triffin Paradox whether understood, valued or sham was a nice piece to my puzzle for it really helps make clear so many things that I read. Honestly, by default or by plan the U.S. dollar is King at least for the foreseeable future. Who frankly can rival the dollar, and like it or not it's the only game in town large enough to make the world go round. Plus it's entrenched and protected by the greatest military ever. The Dollar and our Government can make moves before the HFT get their information, and move the chess pieces where we want! True it may be challenged but that will take time and patience, in the interim the dollar and with it tremendous power can, well, do what it is doing to Iran, destroy without firing a shot.

Anyways, "Deflation-Inflation, Yes", and for me it is wise to consider everything, and as always to keep balance in my thoughts as not everyone is absolutely right about anything. I call this my "Essianist Delema" only I know Oil is the seed for everything that grows, and Gold is money too, and the Dollar is still the reserve currency and above all of this I still have my visuals, my Lady still makes us a home, and my son's, daughter in-laws, and grandsons fill our hearts with Love. The greatest of all gifts.

Respectfully Given


Would mind defining what you mean by 'happiness'? 

Welcome, focis. You asked, "Would mind defining what you mean by 'happiness'?" I think RJS had a good definition:

We look back, and nothing has changed except for the fact that we still understand it isn't what you have, it is that you have each other that truly matters.
A wise man once said, "A man's life does not consist of what he owns," and to that I would add that you don't own things, things own YOU. The minute you buy something you have to maintain it, store it, take care of it, and eventually sell it or haul it off to the dump. Happiness comes from a sense of purpose, of making a difference, from helping others. IN other words? You're not going to mumble from your deathbed that you just wish you'd bought a bigger TV.


I held my Fathers hand, and I held my Mothers hand as they left our world. They took nothing with them, however, their last sight, their last image was of Family that loved them, honored them, and surrounded them, at that very moment.

I was happy about that.

Respectfully Given


Wonderful comments by all, I am very much enjoying this thread.  Here are my thoughts on happiness.
I just finished a juicy orange, it was wonderful and I really enjoyed it.  Did eating the orange bring me happiness?  No, it made me happy at the time.  Now the orange is gone and I can't enjoy it's flavor any more.  I think that being happy and happiness are very different things.  Happiness is long term.  To many try to find happiness in buying things, which as they use them may make them happy for a time.  Happiness is not always being happy, there will be trials for each of us.  Happiness will come as we overcome those trials and we will have a much better appreciation for those times without trials.

That's my two cents.

Go Giants.


Gary-I like this thread a lot, too.  I think you underestimate the orange's contribution to happiness.  I can only enjoy the flavor once, but can enjoy the memory of the flavor many times.  Just as I can enjoy the memory of fun times with people I love long after the actual event.  Both of these make me happy (short term) and increase long-term happiness.

Enjoying the article and this discussion!
I'd like to add alienation from our habitat as a profound distortion of our culture and right relationship with our planet as a foundation of happiness.  That industrial civilization makes the right relationship elusive these days hurts us all deeply, I am sure, even though our culture tells us we don't have to concern ourselves with this.

Whenever I can shake off the distortion and register Earth and my lifetime here (the ultimate free lunch) with my own eyes and heart, joy, enjoyment, love and gratitude infiltrate my experience.  I bear witness to an ancient paradise.  My heart sings with the once-in-a-universe happenstance of being here, rigorous and uncertain though it is.  This foundation - connection with our homeworld - is indispensable to both happiness and sanity for me.  




From Nothing But a Burning Light, Bruce Cockburn (T-Bone Burnett)Your comment reminds me of this cut, especially the line, "when you know even for a moment that it's your time, you can walk with the power of a thousand generations"
(and btw, two of my favorite guitar players. Colin Linden 2nd guitar)