Happiness getting confused with the pleasure of meanness

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Zimbabwe's 'funny money': old and new currency
Image by Sokwanele – Zimbabwe via Flickr

I’ve just read this on  a university chat board:

If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

Sadly, our first impulse is to try to answer the question.

Then we do a double take.  Are we trying to sell happiness?  Aren’t happiness and money two different currencies?

Then we get the real meaning.  What would you do that would make your friends jealous?

Happiness is not consistent with raw competition.

Happiness is consistent with good ‘sportsmanship’ and fair play, yes.  We can  be competitive when competitiveness is kept within the bounds of pleasure and fun.  As soon as winning becomes so important that we care neither about how we behave nor how our actions impact others, as soon as competition becomes excluding, then happiness is inconsistent with the project.

When happiness means oneupmanship that is not happiness.  It is just the pleasure – the pleasure of meanness.

When we win we should be deeply grateful to the losers

This one always baffled my students.  When we win, we should be grateful to the losers, for without their willingness to engage in a race with us, we could not win.  The three cheers for the losing team is not a ritual.   When the three cheers  is not longer more important than the game itself, then maybe we should stop playing the game.

People won’t play when the refereeing is bad

When a game gets too rough, in it or in the consequences after the finish, people stop playing.  They simply won’t come back.

We can bribe some greedy players to take part, true.  The world is a big place and if we have enough money, we can always find enough people who are unscrupulous, unsightful, greedy or masochistic.

Sometimes we are dazzled by their participation to think that something is acceptable. After all, why not take the money and worry about the morality later?

Go on, then.  Do it.  But when you come back to play with us, remember that we will not necessarily be impressed by your spoils.  We won’t give you a headstart in our game when you return ~ because headstarts are not what it is about. Fitting in is what it is about.  Taking part is what it is about.  Playing a game that everyone enjoys is what it is about.

If you don’t fit in now

If you don’t fit in now, you won’t fit in later just because you ran away to prove you could do something.

You have three choices:

  • Stay and make your way with us by fitting in.
  • Leave and find a group where you fit in and you feel you can be loyal and they to you.
  • Leave and take part in a race where winning and losing is what it is about ~ but enjoy the race for its own sake.  No one else will be impressed.  They aren’t impressed that you won it. They want to win to lord it over you. Get it?  So if you race, just enjoy it.

Race for the sake of it, not for the sake of money or happiness

So race because you want to.  Don’t race to get rich or to be happy or to impress anyone.

And if you enjoy the race so much, do it here!  Now!  If you just like racing and you don’t want to hurt anyone, they will enjoy your enjoyment and you will fit in.

And if someone insists on racing .  .  .

But if someone is racing against you and hurting you, if you cannot protect yourself, if your really, really cannot, then maybe it is best to leave and find a place where you can be yourself.

Leave to do what you must do but not because of them. Leave them to their misery and meanness

Happiness is just not competitive

Really it is not.  It is about finding a group where you are loyal to them and them to you.

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