Urocyon recently wrote a really impressive series of posts on the topic of happiness:
I am not going to go into the amount of detail she went into, but I had a few thoughts.
I am reminded of two poems I posted on this blog in the past because I have always found the standard metaphor of depression or sadness as “down” to be terribly misleading:
Rising Into Sadness
When the world is a graveyard
Of dusty skeletons falling apart
And the sky cannot be seen
And even the pines are no longer green
I know that there have been
Too many words
Tossed for moments into living color sky
Ever falling back to a cushion of drabness
This is the way of the world, we said
Watching our eyes adjust to the dimness
Gravity works funny ways, said the world
For those who trust in words
Laughing to itself
As the ashen floor crumbled
Knocking the wind out of us
Smelling the soil as sky blinded our eyes
We had landed on solid green
I was thinking about this today, because of my current experience of joy. The thing that has really surprised me going from depression and terror to happiness, has been that joy — combined with love, beauty, and other such things — is built into the world on a very fundamental level.
This means that instead of learning to feel an emotion, my journey towards that joy has involved removing both internally and externally imposed obstacles that were pulling me away from the joy that exists everywhere.
There is nothing easy about it. I’m not telling people with depression to snap out of it. My experience of depression was that it is incredibly effective at finding many ways to sort of infiltrate my mind and make me totally exhaust myself by getting stuck in thought loops that have the effect of making me always run the exact wrong direction. It’s nasty and totally effective at confusing a person until they have no idea which way to go.
But as I untangled the knots in my head, I found gravity pulling me downward towards joy. Sometimes it has been terrifying. This kind of joy can be almost unbearably intense, and allowing gravity to work instead of running away from it can require giving up aspects of yourself that are really painful to let go of. (The mind is a very strange thing.) But because of various circumstances in my life the alternative to giving these things up has been deadly. So every now and then I’m dragged (sometimes kicking and screaming) through the process of allowing that joy to dissolve one more problematic part of how I think.
And I suspect I am no different than other people in this regard. It’s an aspect of the human condition I’m dealing with and we all have to face such things regardless of neurology or any other personal trait. And I’m not sure it’s ever over, because growth is never over until we die. Or should never be over anyway. So the road to this joy seems mostly to involve removing barriers to it rather than having to generate it like an emotion.
But it’s very reassuring in a way to realize that gravity doesn’t pull us down into sadness, despair, or depression. Gravity pulls us to a place where we realize that every single part of the world no matter how small is absolutely saturated with an almost intolerably intense level of clarity, joy, love, and beauty that can’t be destroyed, only hidden.