Bare Bones Biology 340 – “Happiness”

            “I love to do a good job more than anything else I can think of.”

161109-seniordance-asc_7959rlsbss(Archie Goodwin in The League of Frightened Men, by Rex Stout).


Me too.


And yet our modern corposystem tells us that the way to be happy is to have what you want; that “everyone wants to be happy;” and that we can buy our “happiness” from the corposystem, our modern American socio/political environment.


I once had a mini-debate about this with a Tibetan Lama I was tutoring. When he said the word “happy,” I could tell that he was NOT thinking about what that word means in modern American English. So I did some research.*


Happiness is a 20th century British mis-translation of a Tibetan word referring to that for which all sentient beings strive.


Of course it is true that sentient beings strive to survive. It is one of the four foundational facts of creation and is instinctual, or physiologically automatic, in all species of living organisms. Life strives to stay alive; that’s why it does stay alive.  But that is not at all the same concept as the American “happiness” myth that teaches us to suck at the teat of the corposystem (buy more stuff, grow the economy) in hopes of our eventual reward. And if you aren’t happy, it’s your own fault – suck harder


Like Archie Goodwin, I was taught that: “A good honest job is its own reward.” And the reward is NOT happiness, but a sort of pride in doing a good job of being alive – a certain miracle of Life.


But pride is not the right word either.


It may be that we no longer have a word, in American English, for the pride that we take in our own well-lived lives. The job done, and done well, to benefit the community of our roots rather than the “happiness” of our selves – regardless of the environmental accidents and realities of our birth. Not a fulfillment of self, but a fulfillment of responsibility to the future of the whole of Life.

A good job of living life.


Buddhism – that is, American Buddhism, tells us that we want to be happy. Buddhism provides us with an eightfold path which could could lead to a sustainable human future, within a sustainable Biosystem environment.   But of course the word happy is then defined by the corposystem and applied to its

own toxic propaganda.   Growth by domination for profit. Which is very non-Buddhistic. And to survive in this corposystem culture, Buddhism must be profitable. Or we never hear about it.


What my Lama seemed to mean, when he used the word happiness, was much closer to eudamonia, a term favored by one of my contacts on the web — an obviously well-educated Brit. I looked it up:

“In more general terms, Eudaimonism can be thought of as any theory that puts personal happiness and the complete life of the individual at the center of ethical concern.”


No, no, no. That is just another variation of the corposystem con.

I remember my first trip to Japan, sitting in front of a television that I could not understand the words that were clearly explaining to me different ways that Japanese people take pride in the nature of their lives and work, and the excellent job they do of it (or did, in the 90’s). I was fascinated, and from time to time I still am, as I rerun lifestyle stories that I taped. Japan was telling me something very important that I already knew in my bones, but could not find in my own failed corposystem culture that glorifies growth by domination for profit, a three-fold path that can only lead toward collapse and increased suffering, because it eats up the source of its own life.

Life is based upon and depends upon the perpetual balanced recycling of all the basic materials of Life – clean air, clean water, clean fertile earth, using energy from the sun. Growth cannot continue forever, and no technology can change that law of Life.


Unless we are willing to take pride in our job well done FOR THE FUTURE, there won’t be a future for humans on this earth.


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Archie Goodwin in The League of Frightened Men, by Rex Stout


“According to Aristotle, eudaimonia is constituted, not by honour, wealth or power, but by rational activity in accordance with virtue over a complete life, what might be described today as productive self-actualization. This rational activity, Aristotle judged, should manifest as honesty, pride, friendliness, wittiness, rationality in judgment; mutually beneficial friendships and scientific knowledge.

Immanuel Kant was an important opponent of Eudaimonism. He rejected the view that happiness is the highest good, and insisted that happiness can be an ingredient of the highest good, but only if it is deserved.”

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