Today I stepped out of my office into bright sunshine, meandered up to Old Compton Street and bought some produce from PAUL. The moment I left the bakery, a torrential downpour began. I stood beneath an awning stuffing my face with olive bread amongst others caught out by the rain.
I was as happy as a person could be for those brief moments of people-watching and bread-scoffing. Then rainwater began to seep into my shoes, only to be absorbed by my socks. This set me up nicely for a squelchy return to Orange Street. Happiness ruined! Hello trench-foot! But I was so close… SO CLOSE to achieving that thing everyone wants – permanent happiness!
I don’t understand the quest for eternal happiness. Perpetual dissatisfaction with our situation is the defining characteristic of our species. It has been fuelling our progress since the days of DIY cave improvements and refinements of cooking Woolly Mammoths to their modern equivalents – Nintendo Wiis and Apple Macbooks.
Even if you could transcend instincts hard-wired into your DNA, doesn’t being happy all the time sound a bit lame to you? Wouldn’t it be like having chocolate puddings after every meal? If you’re a couple who have settled down and you’re still not happy, kids are not the answer. If you own a house but you don’t have a double garage, that’s not what you’re missing out on.
If it’s happiness you seek, look no further than the life of a dog in a loving home. No memory of yesterday, no expectations of tomorrow; just cuddles, warmth and a steady supply of food and drink. If you really want to be happy, limit your experience of life to a very basic cycle of eating and sleeping. Live like a baby, in other words.
I think what people really mean when they ‘just want to be happy’ is that they want to not exist as a human on planet earth. But then, as Vonnegut pointed out – for most people, the end of the world can’t come soon enough anyway.