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August 6, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Mulled Whine With H.G. Beattie

Happiness is a solid dose of setotonin

Happiness is not a given. Right now, for example, I am precluded from happiness by thoughts that (a) I should not have given away half of the pie that I bought for dinner, (b) Duncan McLachlan stole my column topic for his feature article this week, and (c) I have to write something regardless after I sent through a nude picture by way of a bribe and it got the reply “stop going swimming, Hulk, and write the damn thing already.”

How do I perceive happiness? I think it might be something that people with hobbies experience. It might be what makes you accidentally smile at people on the street when it’s sunny. It might be the feeling that you lose when you’re hung-over and you realise that the passion for food photography/ burlesque/getting a sleeve that you discovered last night was actually predicated on a fit of ginspiration and that you probably won’t start a blog that goes viral and gets made into a movie where you’re played by Emma Stone.

Because I am not in a relationship and thus simply cannot be happy in the broad, self- validated, ‘inner glow’ sense that you are, popular perception would dictate that I instead seek contentment. Contentment, to the happy, is a schneaned cousin. It is a cop out. “Are you happy?” “Yeah, I’m content.” “Oh, I’m sorry.” “Why? Why are you sorry? Because I don’t get out my contraceptive pill with an apologetic smile when we go out for lunch? Because I love Marvin Gaye but he can never ‘really speak’ to me? Because despite the glittering rationality of economic liberalism on paper I still get really miffed reading about the impact of ever-rising commodity prices on West Auckland cul-de-sacs? Leave me the hell alone.”

Barrages of insecurity aside, happiness and contentment have similar physical manifestations. The difference seems to be in their intensity and longevity. Forget about this difference. Take the serotonin where you can get it. I don’t think that any of us are in a position to pass up positive neurological responses to an A grade/bath/close rereading
of the “nineteen years later” swoon-fest at the end of the last Harry Potter book.

All this said, it may be that you are simply doomed to reach the conclusion that neither happiness nor contentment are possible for you and that you remain a miserable peaked-too-soon with a poxy complexion and a flair for absolutely fucking nothing. How to lure oneself out of this nadir? Firstly, claim smarts. Happiness in intelligent people was, after all, the rarest thing known to Hemingway. Alternatively: escapism—remember “happiness isn’t happiness without a violin-playing goat.”

Ultimately, though, the answer lies as ever in your adolescent trail of romantic self- destruction. Luxuriate in hearing that Flaubert later relished not having been loved at seventeen, because “happiness caught too early can ruin one’s constitution.” Perhaps this ultimate conclusion is really just my own self-indulgence. It probably doesn’t apply to you because, oh,

I don’t know, you’ve never received a four page break-up text in mismatched order while you were driving up state highway one with your family and your Sanyo Ice was cutting in and out of reception. Cue Notting Hill, I think.

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