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Someone Else’s Happiness

February 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Rose Marshack AT 388 “All Your API are Belong to Us”

Assignment #2 – Someone Else’s Happiness

While exploring possibilities for this assignment, Someone Else’s Happiness, I could not help but think of how my happiness is obtained very differently compared to other people. While I do enjoy some material items I truly-only have a strong desire for one, my computer. Because my life is so wrapped around technology, most of my hobbies, “hang-outs”, and creations are all placed in the digital world that could not have a spatial representation in the physical one (unless it a printable artwork, but then this would transcend the non-digital barrier.) While admitting that a large portion of my happiness is channeled through my machine, I realize how devastating it would be to simply loose my personal computer, my happiness. I do enjoy my independence and tend to spend large chunks of the day in front of my computer by myself (one could argue that social networking fulfills my human desire to make contact with others). People might look at my lifestyle and think that I am an extremely unhappy person, or that I was that kid in high school that was going to climb a clock tower with an Uzi. The truth is the opposite: I believe that I am an extremely happy individual, and tend to not let things bother me.

The problem to all this is rooted in a prerequisite of the assignment; someone else’s happiness must be placed on a Google map. I considered finding the home of my favorite websites, and by home, and by that I mean the GPS coordinates of the servers that house them. I also thought about the birthplace of my monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, tower, etc… This would be interesting, but arduous. For this assignment I needed something a little more practical and not so much about ME. Besides, outsourcing is also still a part of the assignment.

So, then, I needed to checkout the second part of my first statement which, coincidentally, is the essence of the assignment; how do other people find happiness? The best way to do that is to simply ask. I had to find a good candidate that felt comfortable writing down this sort of information and could provide me with some interesting results. I thought of two. The first was a male, who does not have a computer (or the internet for that matter) in his own apartment. He doesn’t seem to have a need for it at home, and occupies his time in other ways. The second was a female who uses a computer occasionally and seems to have a slight hate towards technology for reasons beyond my understanding. I decided to go with the second choice, because of our obvious difference in sexual orientation. What makes a female happy seemed to be more interesting to me.

I had her fill out a list of 15 or more things that make her happy. I also made her give detailed examples, the life expectancy of the happiness generated, and anything else she felt like jotting down. At the end I made her try to organize them into a list of things that generate the most happiness to the least. We discussed the results and the outcome was very interesting.

However, I should point out that near the end of my questionnaire, she realized that she forgot about the one thing that makes her most happy, “Driving with the windows down on a sunny day with music blasting.” This was partly due to the fact that we are partaking in this assignment during the winter and her source of happiness can only be carried out during the other, warmer seasons. Only after exploring her other forms of happiness, did it suddenly came back to her. This realization occurred because her other entries in the questionnaire can be incorporated in her number 1 choice. For example, her personal time (number 3) might go something like this… She drives to an amazing destination, maybe to a concert (number 9) or one of her getaways (17) listening to unique music (2), all the while fulfilling her desire to be independent and rebellious (4). It is no wonder that, in her number 6, colorful/bright things, she stated that she hated winter because it makes everything grey, dirty, and boring. I can see this being very problematic, and it probably makes her winters very depressing. (Her winter would be like my computer blowing up into a million pieces, man that would suck!) This also makes me wonder… if I asked her to write what makes her happy in the summer – would she put down different answers?

For this reason, I feel all her sources are simple pleasures and not forms of pure gratitude. As we already know, gratitude awards individuals with higher and longer lasting levels of happiness. However, it seems that for almost all of her entries she claims that she receives long term happiness. This is problematic, for in theory, simple pleasures are said to only yield short term happiness. And so, I made sure she understood what long term meant, and that is; would you still be thinking about this source of happiness months from its first occurring? She still stood by her original decisions. Now, I had to try to make sense of things…

As I look back at her answers I see that she cherishes distinct places, random situations, and rare things. Under music (2) she noted that she loves bands that incorporate a level of uniqueness in their sound and that she loves to rediscover odd music that she forgot about. Under history (5) she claims that she likes it because it is so diverse, seemingly endless, and enjoys each era of American history in particular. In her number 6, she noted the amazing blue color of the Mediterranean Sea and that it was something she had never seen before. Concerts (9) also ring true to being unique each time and so does trying new things (7). The list goes on, but one I would like to mention most of all is reading Jack Kerouac books (12). She seemed very passionate about explaining this one, and did considerably more talking about it. The famous author seems to be her idol. He has a quirky writing style, lived and writes about one of her favorite time periods (history), has an appreciation for water, and likes to escape and rebel against society. All of these qualities are present in her lifestyle.

Understandably, she is a person that takes pride in life’s little details or oddities. For that reason, her simple pleasers come with prerequisites. She doesn’t like just music (2), she likes the music that is unknown and not meant for the average Joe. At the same rate, when she stated she liked children (15), she felt obligated to mention her appreciation for a kid at Chiddix that was her favorite. He had autism was very shy, spacey, different, but to her, these qualities made him extremely adorable and memorable. Again the same trend can be found in her obsession with turtles (10). And it seems, the odder, and more unique something is, the more happiness it yields. This could fulfill her aspiration to be independent and rebellious (4) as well.

So, adding on to my earlier statement, her simple pleasures come with prerequisites that transform them into rare pleasures. She seems to have a constant desire to combine simple pleasures, but is not always successful. Therefore, it might be possible for her to find a sense of personal gratitude when she is able to group her pleasures into one bundle and experience them all at once in a single scenario. Consequently, she tends to remember these moments in her life and takes pride in having experienced them.

Her answers and dialogue in the questionnaire easily lead me to this conclusion. Her list seems to be slightly more fulfilling than the average simple pleasures, but her entries still do not reflect the effect of pure gratitude. For this reason, I can see her having a lower initial level of happiness and that her level is very flexible. Obviously, winter can weaken this already constantly shifting level. Seemingly random fits of depression are probably common in her kind of lifestyle and this seems to ring true with Jack Kerouac as I stated earlier.

Overall, I find her forms of happiness to be unstable, and very different than mine. Her attempt at finding true gratitude has left her placing emphasis on odd or extremely rare pleasures. It would only make sense that her sources of happiness are much more inconsistent than an average person’s. While this does seem to fulfill her needs, I think the half-life of her happiness is much shorter than she realizes. For instance, I was surprised to see her state that most of her entries retuned long term happiness. I found agreement during our conversation as to her justifications, but after some reflection I was not sure I believed her. This goes to show how different people can be, how they achieve satisfaction in their own ways, and how, sometimes, that process is psychologically masked with under-rewarding pleasures. Below are the notes from the questionnaire and conversations…

http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl

1. “Driving with the windows down on a sunny day with music blasting…” Nothing on her mind when she does this. Says, this is her ultimate happiness. Contains, music, good weather, sunshine, a cool destination, being in control, independent.

2. Music Incorporates a level of uniqueness in the music with many instruments and or vocals. Bands that do things different every time, that don’t stick to preconceived formulas that make them (the band) who they are. Likes to play music all the time. Rock and roll will always be the best, but she likes all music Beatles are the best. Long Term Happiness. She likes to rediscover music that she forgot she had. Iama Robot – Creeps Me Out

3. Personal time (In her personal space) Does nothing… Thinks about how the day went. “Unwinding time.” More short term happiness, gets through the day.

4. Independent or Rebellious Breaking the rules makes her happy sometimes even her own. Coming to college, rebelling against parents and being independent. Long Term happiness.

5. History Likes all kinds of history. Very diverse, you could learn about history forever. Infinite, its awesome. Doesn’t always like the History Channel. It doesn’t always show history… 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, American cultural revolutions. How civilization and rules have changed. Long Term.

6. Colorful/Bright things Italy, Mediterranean Sea was a bright, very saturated blue. Nature (flowers, trees, animals, sky) Hates winter because it is too long (cars make slush, everything is grey, sounds of roads, dirty.) Long Term Happiness.

7. Trying New Things First time she had a mango was awesome. She hated a papaya and didn’t think she would like mangos. First time rock climbing, upper limits, Bloomington. Applies to everything; food, new experiences, places, classes, hobbies, etc. Short term happiness.

8. Making Other People Happy Visits home, because of family wanting to see her. Little Cousins in particular. Long term. Her visit means a lot to her family.

9. Concerts The atmosphere is a mind-blowing experience. Everyone is having a good time. Seeing the artists playing the music is more rewarding than just listening to it. Claims to have been to over 10 venues, and has seen over 40 concerts. The Rivera is good, but outdoor concerts are her favorite. Alpine to see Jack Johnson during summer 2008. Long term happiness.

10. Animals, specifically Turtles It has a shell. It can be in or out of the water. They seem to be chill all the time, and that they are never worried. Just knowing that turtles exist make her happy. Has a turtle tattoo and a turtle necklace that she loves. Short term happiness.

11. Water (anything about water) From drinking water, to showers, to sea animals, beach, lakes, ponds, rain… Constant need or strong desire to be near or have water. Loves to swim. Average happiness. Has tattoos of a seahorse and a turtle.

12. Reading Jack Kerouac Books Dharma Bums is her favorite. Set in a different time and place (America 50’s, 60’s). Old and odd lifestyle. Appreciated his unique writing style (loosely biographical.) Lived very spontaneously. Binge drinks for days and days. The ideas brought up in the book are very philosophical and inspiring. Wrote a book in a few days, while on drugs. Lot’s of Benzedrine… He escapes the world a lot. He made a book of Ocean words. Reading these books bring her long term, but she hasn’t read all of them.

13. Traveling Anytime she sees a new place. Loves Italy. Florence especially (very cultural). Mentioned Michelangelo and “statue butts” Poland (family)

14. Jene and Jude’s Hotdogs Craves them constantly. When she finally gets to eat one, it is more like fulfilling a drug addiction. Norridge, IL. Long Term Happiness.

15. Children They are cute, have the best imaginations, curious, full of wonder. She feels privileged to teach them. A kid at Chiddix was her favorite. He had autism, very shy, and spacey, but adorable. He learned her name the day she left. Miss M. Usually Long Term.

16. Pushing Daisies It is whimsical, creative, has elements of cute romance, funny, entertaining. Short term happiness.

17. Hartigan Beach Park “Lake Michigan” kind of a place. “Water” once again. It is a very secluded, out-of-the-way beach. Goes there by herself most of the time. Long Term happiness.

18. Being Creative (Mostly Arts and Crafts) Peace sign necklace. Proud to have made something that good. Long Term Happiness.

19. e. e. cummings Never capitalizes letters. Has a very artsy and stylized approach to typography. Maggie and Millie and Molly and Mae is her favorite. Short to medium term happiness, more of a form of entertainment.

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1. The New Science of Happiness By CLAUDIA WALLIS, Time Magazine, Sunday, Jan. 09, 2005
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1015832-1,00.html

2. Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness (pdf). Robert A. Emmons, and McCullough, Michael E.,

3. In Pursuit of Affluence, at a High Price, By ALFIE KOHN (pdf).

4. Authentic Happiness, excerpt, Seligman, Martin, Free Press, NY, 2002. (pdf)

5. “The Heritability of Happiness,” excerpt, David Lykken, Harvard Mental Health Letter (doc)

6. Experientialism, Materialism, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Leaf Van Boven, University of Colorado at Boulder (2005)