Just wait: Soon enough
You will be quiet too.
What does it mean to be happy? The simple definition, according to Merriam and Webster, is “feeling pleasure and enjoyment.”
What is required to feel pleasure and enjoyment? A line from gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson comes to mind: “I wouldn’t recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
It seems to me that happiness is a relatively superficial condition. I’m happy, or perhaps merely distracted from suffering, when I’m having sex or smoking a certain herb. Such activities, at least by themselves, do not bring me joy.
I speak and write about taking a radical approach. A radical gets to the root. Radicalism assumes going deep.
Joy is a deeper experience than happiness. It requires more than scratching the emotional surface. And, in return, it offers an experience more fulfilling than happiness.
What about joy, then, according to Merriam and Webster? The simple definition claims joy is “a feeling of great happiness.”
The difference between being happy and experiencing joy, according to Merriam and Webster, is minor. I’d argue the difference is minor and quite significant. Beyond the superficiality of happiness lies the much more meaningful emotion of joy.
No sex, drugs, or insanity are required for joy. I doubt they even help one make the transition from happiness to joy.
Upon reflection, I doubt I’m the right person for the job of commenting on happiness and joy. As I pointed out late last year, “I’ve been quite unimpressed with the fleeting happiness I’ve managed to corral.” Indeed, “it’s unclear to what extent I’m capable of that pursuit” (of happiness). Going even deeper, into the domain of joy, is generally well beyond my recent experience. As such, my voice on the matter is suspect.
Fortunately, it seems one’s lack of expertise on these matters does not preclude their consideration. In fact, it might prove helpful. Consider, for example, Arthur Schopenhauer’s definition of happiness: the alleviation of suffering. Adhering to this definition might have one wearing three-sizes-too-small shoes all day for the happiness that results when removing them at day’s end. And yet the German philosopher wrote splendidly about the human condition and the pursuit of meaning.
For me — and admittedly perhaps only for me — joy is possible even though happiness is elusive. I have experienced deeply meaningful periods of joy while pondering my place in the time-space continuum. Joy comes in the form of relationships, with or without sex, including my relationship to the natural world. Joy comes in the form of nature itself, including the flap of a wing and the song of a bird. I’m not particularly happy about my destructive role in this horrifying culture, nor with my current lot in life. But joy has not completely escaped my grasp.
I know that the birds have grown silent in the woods. I know that very soon I will be silent, too. Further, I understand the source of these predicaments, and my limited role in their creation. And yet, I’m not without joy.
According to numerous media sources, many climate scientists who are paying attention to the predicament in which we are embroiled are depressed. As knowledgeable as most of them, as powerless as each of them, I’m still not plagued by depression. Few climate scientists are willing to admit our near-term extinction, doubtless because they lack sufficient background in biology and ecology, and yet they are devastated that the murderous civilization they love is threatened by climate change. My conclusion is far more dire, yet my response is muted in comparison.
Perhaps the typical climate scientist finally has realized that we cannot rely upon corporate entities, such as governments, to address climate change. Perhaps this comes as a surprise, hence a source of depression. I’m not so naive. A long-time anarchist who gave up on large entities decades ago, I’m more amused than depressed at the absence of a serious effort rooted in civilization to deal with a predicament created by civilization. And I’m aware that abrupt climate change is not the only route to near-term human extinction.
Of course we’re going to die. Of course Homo sapiens will go extinct. Of course this
will happen is happening faster than expected. Of course irrational people will assume otherwise, and promote belief over evidence in resisting reality.
But the birds have grown silent in the woods. Soon, we will be silent, too.
The topic of this brief essay was discussed by McPherson and Peter Melton for the latest episode of Extinction Radio. Details are provided directly below the embedded song.
McPherson was featured in this week’s episode of Extinction Radio. An interview by Peter Melton with McPherson about the topic of this essay occurs at 2:37:29 — 3:06:05 of the show. Extinction Radio is archived weekly here.