Get your own
 diary at! contact me older entries newest entry

5:37 am - Tues 3/20/07
A Life Of Happiness, Or A Life Of Meaning?

A Life Of Happiness, Or A Life Of Meaning?
I've been reading The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri.

I finished the book a short time ago, and a passage toward the end jumped out at me:

In so many ways, his family's life feels like a string of accidents, unforeseen, unintended, one incident begetting another....They were things for which it was impossible to prepare but which one spent a lifetime looking back at, trying to accept, interpret, comprehend. Things that should never have happened, that seemed out of place and wrong, those were what prevailed, what endured in the end.

Or to be more glib about it, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans".

It was interesting, and odd, and made me feel slightly melancholic at times, to be reading a book all about family and connections and "roots" when I have "none of the above". But one of the reasons I love reading is that, in the right hands, you can be made to understand, and to feel, things that are beyond your own range of experiences.

(Anyway, if you haven't read the book, I heartily recommend it, as well as her earlier book of Pulitzer-Prize winning short stories, The Interpreter of Maladies.)

The passage I quoted, with its "trying to accept, interpret, comprehend" the "accidents" of a lifetime, also reminded me of the last episode of Heroes, and a question the ostensible "bad guy" asked of one of our "heroes": "Do you want a life of happiness, or a life of meaning?".

That question has been in the back of my mind ever since--Do I want a life of "happiness", or a life of "meaning"?

When "Nathan" says "I want both", he's told that's impossible, that in order to have a life of "happiness", you have to live in the here-and-now, while wanting a life of "meaning" means you're continually obsessing over the past and worrying about the future (Trying to suss out the "meaning of it all").

Thinking about it afterwards, it hit me that, if you asked me that question, I would say I was looking for "a life of happiness", but in reality, my habits and thought-processes are really more those of someone looking for "a life of meaning".

(And I know--You can debate the validity of that either/or proposition. But for my money, it felt like "truth" when I heard it.)

I've struggled for "meaning" all my life, thinking--mistakenly--that if/when I found it, then I'd be "happy".

But life really is "what happens while you're busy making other plans". At least it's been that way for me.

There's no inherent "meaning" to anything that's happened to me (Particularly the business of my mother giving me up, probably the event of my life for which I most crave "meaning"). There's only "meaning" I've applied to situations "after the fact", sometimes to my own long-term detriment.

And pursuing "a life of happiness"?

Well, word in scientific circles seems to be that the only way you can achieve "happiness" is by not pursuing it. That happiness is not a destination, but a by-product of the things you do, the relationships you form, and the way you choose to look at the world.

I don't really know where all this leaves me.

But I'll ponder it all for a bit, and get back to you.


previous - next

1 comments so far
about me - read my profile! read other Diar
yLand diaries! recommend my diary to a friend! Get
 your own fun + free diary at!