i was watching the commencement speech mindy kaling gave to the harvard law school graduation this weekend when my roommate also suggested to look at tim minchin’s “life is meaningless” commencement speech (here). filled with humor, minchin makes a good point that we spend a lot of time trying to find meaning in life and in doing so make ourselves unhappy.
an article in the atlantic talks about how living a meaningful life may make you unhappy but might offer a more satisfactory life overall. afterall, happiness is an emotion and thus unsustainable—it is fleeting and ephemeral. the comments people responded with seemed focused on blaming the pursuit of happiness on the stunted personal growth of the population (mainly about Americans).
i see the points on both sides. happiness is about selfishness. it is about the ease of life and has nothing to do with hardships. surviving and learning from difficulty results in an enduring mentality; enduring must be preceded by having a reason to survive. a reason for living. meaning. at the same time, i think “meaning” has also led to strife—this is in combination with a multitude of other variables in the human condition; meaning is what we use to establish organized religion (and thus the need to have superiority or righteousness over other belief systems); “meaning” can be appropriated by individuals and institutions for an agreeable, blind following. “meaning” can be just as disastrous as the pursuit of happiness.
the article does point out that a meaningful life does not necessarily mean it is without happiness and vice versa (however, there is a strong persuasive tone that happiness is flippant and unnecessary). i think there isn’t really a specific side we must strive for; i think living thoughtfully, with reflection on our actions and intent, with appreciation and love, with consideration for others will lead to a larger sense of satisfaction in our lives. there is satisfaction in how we live (but is this not also a reference to pride?) and who we’ve affected. happiness is not an enduring emotion, but we definitely can experience it (in its many degrees) throughout our lives as a choice and as a perspective.