How To Live
The Salient Cheat-Sheet To Living Happily-Ever-Nirvana
The Examined Life
Espousers: Socrates, Plato, every scientist ever
Knowledge makes us happy. We can’t just be content with what we know now, we always want to know more about the world we live in. It’s the reason why we launch Hubble telescopes and dig around for lost civilisations and dinosaur fossils. Seriously, aren’t you happier knowing that such a thing as a Tyrannosaurus Rex once existed? As we turn outward for knowledge, we can also turn inward, examining our whys and wherefores through philosophy. The more we know, the happier we are, and the more we examine our lives, the happier we are with them. Socrates once said that the “unexamined life” is not worth living, so you really don’t have much of a choice here anyway.
The Ubermensch Ideal
Espousers: Friedrich Nietzsche, Tyler Durden, Batman
When you find that there’s no meaning to the world, who do you turn to? Your friends? Your parents? God? No, yourself! Or rather, the perfect you. Nietzsche’s Ubermensch or “overman” is the atheistic, charismatic badass that exists within all of us, an intellectual idealisation realised.. You set your own ideals and live by them rather than living up to the ones society set for you. It’s something we all wish on some level that we could do, but it’s an extremely difficult undertaking; even Nietzsche thought it was impossible for anyone to do. But if you can pull it off, you’ll be worshipped for it.
Espousers: Epicurus, The World State, Hedonism Bot from Futurama
The idea that the best way to live is for the sake of pleasure and pleasure alone, whether in small incremental amounts so as not to spoil oneself, or just going the full monty and let the chocolate lathering begin. Obviously this extends only to physical pleasure; an everlasting pursuit for sex, food, drink, drugs, anything that’ll make that little hypothalamus of yours flutter. While not intellectually fulfilling, this philosophy reflects the human desire to just generally feel good, like, all the time, man. At a certain level, hedonism already dictates everything you do. Schools of thought like utilitarianism and basic human instincts like the need for intimacy come back to our desire to increase our pleasure.
Espousers: Diogenes, Marty the Zebra, Blanket Man (RIP)
Before its current meaning that all humanity is driven by selfishness, cynicism was a way of life that meant getting rid of all of your possessions and “living like a dog”, which is what cynicism translates to in Greek. Cynicism espouses that you are only truly content once you free yourself from the physical and societal trappings of the morally restrictive and object obsessed world we live in. After all, if you’ve got nothing to own, what have you got to lose? You’re as free as you can possibly be, with only the rag on your loins and the collection of outdated iPods that strangers throw to you to keep you through the night… until the police arrest you for exposure and throw you in a mental hospital for half a year at a time. Yeah, this one was probably easier to pull off in Ancient Greece.
Life in Ignorance
Espousers: Thomas Gray, Homer Simpson, The Party
“Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise”. Simply put, not knowing something is often more comfortable than knowing it. We all know there are frightening truths out there designed to make you unhappy; a life of ignorance and simplicity cushions you from the harsh realities of life, like death or taxes or… some other third thing. See? Simple. Aside from the idea that “you know enough”, life under ignorance also means that someone knows better than you. This allows you to submit to a cushy life at ease, while somebody else makes all the big decisions for you and keeps you deliberately uniformed so as not to scare you. No worrying about laws or rights or some other third thing…wow, I feel happier already.
Espousers: Zeno of Citium, Doctor Manhattan, Richard Dawkins
Stoicism is the belief that nature holds the truth to everything: if you want to find reason and beauty in the world, it’s right there in our cells, atoms and molecules. The human form, pretty flowers and rainbows, the stars in the sky can all be explained by scienctific theories and methods of rigor, and that makes it all the more awesome. Logic rules because there are rules to logic. Humanity loves to explain these things because it makes them feel smart and accomplished and therefore happy, even if happiness can be logically explained as dopamine from the ventral tegmental area of the brain going to your synapses, of course.
Espousers: Buddha, Confucius, any of the one “L” lamas
The best way of finding Nirvana besides browsing through your dad’s old CD collection, the search for enlightenment requires a lot of ohm-ing and aah-ing and staving off stuff, but it’s worth it because supposedly enlightenment is really freaking good. Like, amazingly good. Better than sex, even though you have to give that up to achieve it, so maybe that’s not the best descriptor. Okay, here’s a better one: it’s like walking into the great cosmic pizza store and getting made one with everything (geddit?), as you gain full knowledge of everything and anything. All by sitting on a mat and humming!
The God Life
Espousers: Jesus, Mohammed, any number of prophets
Whether you believe in an Allah, a Yahweh or a Flying Spaghetti Monster, having an omnipotent and omni-benevolent guy in the sky looking out for you can be a pretty comforting idea for some. When things go your way, your inner human need to thank somebody is immediately received; when shit goes fan-ward, you know it’s not your fault because that’s just how the big guy thought it should go for you. “The God Life” keep you happy because you know there’s some higher force looking out for you, and that’s enough for some.
Espousers: Auguste Comte, Superman, idealists
The moral obligation to help others, and to some, the only reason why humanity in all its “selfish” glory has continued to exist. Despite all odds, we DO care about each other. Doing good for others makes us feel good because there will always be some benefit in doing so, like that warm fuzzy feeling inside. Not to mention the benefits to one’s reputation; if people see you as a good person, they’re more likely to do things for you. The “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” nature of altruism is the basis of our society, from caveman days to the now.
Espousers: Ayn Rand, Mr. Incredible, the cast of Jersey Shore
Objectivism covers a lot of things, but none so prevalent as the idea that the moral purpose of life was to be happy. How do you that? Just do whatever you like. Nothing else matters except what you want and how you’re going to achieve it. If somebody knocks you down a peg for doing so, well, screw them, you’re the one being persecuted, it can’t be helped that you’re too good at stuff, why should you have to suffer because of how awesome you are, and…yeah, you see where this leads. Take every egotistic trope ever invented, mix it all together, season to taste, and you get the objectivist philosophy. Use with caution.