Sunday, September 23, 2007

My personal philosophy, let me show you it.

This is on my mind because Perry and I were talking about philosophy and whether or not it's good for anything (still unresolved, though I will point out that Plato indirectly influenced me to become a vegetarian, which depending on your outlook is either a strike in favor or against).

But philosophy as a general subject and personal philosophy as applied every day to one's life are two very different things and right now I want to tell you about my unoriginal, unambitious, but generally satisfying personal philosophy.

My goal is to live as happily as I can happily achieve. Which is to say, I balance most of my decisions between the happiness of the moment and the happiness of the future. I don't always get it right, and I don't always even make decisions for those reasons, but I try to.

I have the advantage -- and I know that it is rather a profound one -- of having lucky brain chemistry. My default state is one of mild contentment. This is further compounded by a lucky set of circumstances -- functional, loving family; upper-middle class educated American upbringing; a relationship of equality, love, and respect with Mr Smarty-Pants; enough to eat; etc etc etc.

However: on occasions when I have not been as even-keeled, lucky, or socially fulfilled as I am at the moment, I have been able to significantly improve my general state of being by thinking very carefully about what I need in order to be happy, and how much happiness I can achieve with only what I have. This sounds so simple, but when you're already feeling sad or desperate or angry, focusing on making yourself truly happy and calm is not always something that comes easily.

(I know this is going to sound Randian, but the lady had a couple of good ideas.) I decided at some point that my first responsibility is to myself. Part of the reasoning behind this is the fact that I can't make other people in my life happy if I'm not happy; that I can't give money to those who need it if I have none to give; that I've got this life and I'm going to live it one way or another, so why not enjoy it?

This is not to say I always opt for immediate gratification -- like I said, I make decisions based on weighing immediate pleasure against expected future pleasure. Also, I'll do things I don't want to do on a hedonistic level because I know I'll feel bad about myself if I don't (keeping appointments when I'd rather stay at home and cuddle with Perry), or if I know there will be negative consequences (going to work some mornings -- thankfully not most -- simply because I don't want to be fired or look lazy or uncommitted). I've made hard decisions based on this concept as well (ending friendships when it becomes clear I'm going to suffer more than gain in the long run).

Again, reading this over, it seems a) kind of cold-blooded, and b) almost insultingly straightforward, like why am I even bothering to spell it out? But it's worked so well for me -- just paying attention to what makes me happy now and what's likely to make me happy in the future -- and trying to balance or even reconcile the two. I think maybe sometimes it's easy to forget to pay attention to the things in life that please; that give pleasure. And I think it's important.


Blogger Jonathan said...

I'm so glad you posted this! And I'm especially glad that you gave your copasetic brain chemistry big ups--having easygoing juices upstairs is consistently under-rated as a thing to be thankful for.

10:25 AM  

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