What I am usually, and guess most of us are if we put our joyous days on a scale beside our foul, angry days, is staid. Neither here nor there. Somewhere in-between. I have a friend who once told me that “I’m not happy unless I’m miserable”. I bought into that motto as true because being unhappy or miserable gives me drive. It gives me something to feel strongly about; a battle to win, a story to tell, some thing to fix.
Being unhappy means there’s work to do.
If we are at rock bottom; if there’s no place to go but up, then it’s easy to know what path to take, since there’s only one! Whereas, if we are satisfied or content, there is definitely a direction events could take – – down. Because we often rely on Murphy’s Law, we expect something to shatter our brief happiness anyway, since joy is never long-lasting.
Angst gives us purpose. I heard somewhere long ago, there is a theory that once we’ve reached our life’s goal…our individual mission being fulfilled, we die. Like Sarah Winchester believed, if she always had something to work on, something in progress, she might just live forever. (By the way, she was wrong. Maybe if she had tackled projects worth doing, instead of building stairs that led to doors that led to nowhere….but I digress.)
Who are we, without the struggle? The greatest figures had the toughest struggles…think MLK, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, etc.
Do the things we want the most come easily? No. At least for me, they are work. Unhappiness is pivotal to change. The desire for change inspires work. The work creates accomplishment. The accomplishment creates joy. The joy is momentary and fleeting, but a teaser to keep us working toward that seductive feeling again.
If you follow my line of reasoning, then, isn’t it necessary, even better, to be unhappy? Otherwise, we would never achieve. We would never even try.
Correct, we are not ALL staid. Correct, there is fleeting joy in everything. Correct, joy through suffering creates positive changes that can benefit all of society. I am unsure if you are agreeing or disagreeing with me. Maybe you think ‘angst’ is too strong a word to use, but I feel varying levels of angst at varying times. Unhappiness can cause positive change. Correct.
We are not all staid, and the path to productivity can include joy at every level, top to bottom. Some great and extremely productive people suffer not with angst, but inject happiness into their great struggles while working tirelessly to make things better. I’m pretty sure the Dalai lama would not agree with you.
One of my favorite philosophers who believes that joy through suffering leads to the greatest level of productivity and the strongest results for our efforts, and is even mandatory for our efforts to impact the world in the most useful ways:
But I think Abraham Lincoln summed it up best:
Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)