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« Since when don't male virtues include patience? | Main | One of the lucky ones »


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I would love to see Douthat and Wente (see below article) duke it out in the ring.


Sometimes I just adore you.

It's one thing for a woman like me to say these things about women's humanity - after all, I hate men and kill babies in my spare time - and quite another for a middle-aged white guy to say them. Thank you.

I love the second part of your essay. You are quite right - I can attest to your rightness as a foreigner who didn't used to expend this much energy in the effort to be happy. And yes, I'm a happier person now, and not just because my life circumstances have been more of my choosing, but just in daily moods. I used to have no problem with wallowing in a funk for days and weeks. Of course, I was also a teenager, but still. I think I shed a lot of my neuroticism through the habit of being happy.

I've been stressed out and in a depressed mood for less than two days and it is seriously bothering me that I'm not cheery and happy and upbeat.

And it IS a habit more than anything, because as far as external life circumstances go, yes, they do influence your capacity for cheer, but it doesn't take perfect circumstances to produce happiness.

If I had to pick one external factor that influences happiness, I'd say it's self-determination because even when more choices in my life has meant more stress and insecurity, it is the only thing that has meant more overall happiness, and the only thing I wouldn't sacrifice for "perfect" circumstances.


By the way, have you read J.R. Ackerly's We Think the World of You?

For some reason, my mind has woven an association between your writing and that book, particularly posts like this one on happiness.

Ian Welsh

I'm not all that sure we know what happiness is. Most of us certainly don't know how to achieve it. And the more emotional trauma we are experiencing, the more likely coping mechanisms are to kick in and tell us "it's great". For example, surveys show that parents, asked to rate their happiness in the moment, as opposed to retrospectively or generically, are more unhappy than couples without kids. But most parents will tell you their kids make them happier.

Do they?

I don't know.

But I do know that most interactions I see between parents and their children are not happy.

Doug K

Thank you for the Robert Hayden poem, it is wonderful.

Happiness is a unicorn I think.


You know, Ian, it's funny you said that, because this post made me think about parenthood when I read it. No, there are lots of parts of that particular job that aren't fun at all, and you really can't blow them off, because the consequences of that are even less fun. That's a lot of pressure, and pressure is rarely happy.

You do, though, if you're lucky, get to spend a lot of time with someone you like, and when they amaze you, you get to feel as if you had something to do with their being someone who amazes you.

But really, you'd more or less have to be not any more insightful than an affluent twenty-something with a low-labor job who's never been a primary caregiver to think it's less hard, less stressful, less frustrating or less wearying than "working." Although maybe not - you notice in Douthat's brave new world of retro he's not planning any of this happiness for himself. He'll stick to the misery of paying work with benefits and soothe his soul by being taken care of in her copious spare time by one of those happy women, secure in the knowledge that he's her sole source of support and there's always time for a performance evaluation.

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