Saturday, February 22, 2020

Future Plans and the True Meaning of Happiness

What does the near future hold for this blog?

Well, I will occasionally comment on breaking stories if they catch my fancy -- but most of the time, I'm going mimic Dennis Prager and stick to general philosophical issues. Why? Because it has become increasingly apparent to me that we as a society are deeply, deeply confused about the true meanings of love, happiness, justice -- just about every good you can name.

I stand by what I said two posts ago regarding the fat acceptance movement, for example -- even if, as one commenter here recently claimed, diets make people "unhappy." (We'll get to the error in thinking in that claim in just a moment.) No one knows better than I how difficult it is to maintain a svelte figure, but that doesn't completely invalidate the standard that "privileges" the thin. It indicates that we should be compassionate to all those who fail to hit the standard, sure; I think everyone agrees that straight-up shaming is profoundly unhelpful. But you will do an enormous amount of harm if you continue to tell young people in particular that being obese is a wholly unproblematic lifestyle choice worthy of being celebrated in your ad campaigns and cover shoots. Why? Because it's an outright falsehood. Obesity leads to many documented health and mobility problems that shouldn't be ignored for the sake of phony "self-esteem."

Regarding the comment mentioned above: Let's stipulate that diets make people "unhappy." I hate to say it, but that doesn't mean all dieting is bad and useless. Genuine happiness often involves being temporarily uncomfortable and "unhappy" in the service of accomplishing higher goals. It's no fun, for instance, to have to take your garbage to the curb once or twice a week (depending on your jurisdiction); indeed, doing all that heavy lifting probably makes you extremely "unhappy" in the moment. But if you don't do it - if you elect to prioritize your short-term pleasure over your long-term good - you will end up living in a shit pit. Similarly, as a teacher, I am intimately familiar with the "unhappiness" that accompanies one of my homework assignments. But if my students choose to avoid that "unhappiness" and play video games instead, the result is generally bad grades, angry parents, and disciplinary restrictions. Better to accept the bit of "unhappiness" early on than the more extensive grief later.

Real happiness is not a transitory emotion. It's the fulfillment and well-being that comes from properly ordering your life according to the traditional virtues. Up until his sudden death almost two months ago, my father and my mom had a happy marriage -- but they didn't always feel content. As a matter of fact, they faced a great deal of adversity thanks to Dad's military deployments, both of their chronic illnesses, repeated hospitalizations, etc. If my parents had accepted the logic behind the fat acceptance movement - that discomfort is a thing to be avoided at all costs - they would not have stuck together for 41 years -- and ultimately, they would've been worse off.

So yeah: that up there is the sort of thing you can expect from me most of the time. I'll also be responding to books I read and posting enlightening YouTube content as I find it. Overall, I want to zoom out because, as the ascendancy of Bernie Sanders reveals, we are standing at a crossroads -- and I want to point my readers in the right direction.

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