I just had a thought about happiness which is a bit of a mindfuck.
If you think about the evolutionary function of happiness, the obvious thing to think is that evolution selects a meaning for happiness so that if we attempt to maximise it that will maximise reproductive fitness. (This formulation could well be wrong.) Now presumably if we were quite happy most of the time, we wouldn’t put much effort in to things and so we wouldn’t be very fit. On the other hand someone who was pretty unhappy would put lots of effort in and so would be very fit. Therefore evolution will tend to select unhappy people (but presumably not totally depressed people, there has to be a possibility of happiness for it to work). Now that’s already a mindfuck because it means that the driving force behind our existence wants us to be unhappy. Shit.
But you might think, maybe that’s not so bad. Evolution will have chosen some things that make us happy that in the environment in which we evolved were fairly rare, and maybe with better technology etc. we can get more of those things and that would make us happy. In other words, perhaps a happy world is possible. Yeah, well, maybe (although the evidence rather suggests that more wealth and technology makes us less happy). But there’s another nasty possibility which is that we habituate to our current level of happiness. Just as you cease to hear a noise when it’s played constantly or smell an odour that is present constantly, and only detect it when it goes away or gets louder or stronger, maybe you cease to feel happy about the things that make you happy when they’re always there. In other words, you’ll always be tending towards unhappiness and only feel happy briefly in moments of change when things improve. Double shit.
So is it true? And if so, what the fuck do we do about it? I mean, what do you do differently if you know that happiness can only ever be a short lived thing and not something permanent? I can think of a few ideas but I’d be interested to hear what others think.