Last weekend I listened to this podcast by The Knowledge Project with Naval, the founder of AngelList. These were two hours very well spent. I need multiple posts to highlight the parts I liked. Let’s start by Naval’s answer to his definition of happiness. I like it because I can relate to it, and it is similar to my father’s approach to life, which I also can relate to.
Today, I believe that happiness is, it’s really a default state. It’s what’s there when you remove the sense that something is missing in your life. We are highly judgmental, survival, and replication machines. We are constantly walking around thinking I need this, I need that, trapped in the web of desires. Happiness is that state when nothing is missing. When nothing is missing, your mind shuts down and your mind stops running into the future or running into the past to regret something or to plan something.
In that absence for a moment, you have internal silence. When you have internal silence, then you are content and you are happy. Feel free to disagree, again, it’s different for everybody, but people believe mistakenly that happiness is about positive thoughts and positive actions.
The more I’ve read, the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve experienced, because I verify this for myself, every positive thought essentially holds within it a negative thought. It is a contrast to something negative. The Tao Te Ching says this more articulately than I ever could, but it’s all duality and polarity. If I say I’m happy, that means that I was sad at some point. If I say he’s attractive, then that means that somebody else is unattractive. Every positive thought even has a seed of a negative thought within it and vice versa, which is why a lot of greatness in life comes out suffering. You have to view the negative before you can aspire to and then appreciate the positive.
All of that said, long winded, to me happiness is not about positive thoughts. It’s not about negative thoughts. It’s about the absence of desire, especially the absence of desire for external things. The fewer desires I can have, the more I can accept the current state of things, the less my mind is moving because the mind really exists in motion towards the future or the past. The more present I am, the happier and more content I will be. If I latch onto that, if I say, “Oh, I’m happy now”, and I want to stay happy, then I’m going to drop out of that happiness. Now, suddenly, the mind is moving. It’s trying to attach to something. It’s trying to create a permanent situation out of a temporary situation.
Happiness to me is mainly not suffering, not desiring, not thinking too much about the future or the past, really embracing the present moment and the reality of what is, the way it is. Nature has no concept of happiness or unhappiness. To a tree, there is no right or wrong. There is no good or bad.
Nature follows unbroken mathematical laws and a chain of cause and effect from the big bang to now. Everything is perfect exactly the way it is. It is only in our particular minds that we’re unhappy or not happy and things are perfect or imperfect because of what we desire.