Well, there isn’t one, of course.
See, that’s the trick that the human brain is wired to perform on you. There are universals – all nervous systems are wired for avoidance and grasping, and it would be a good guess to say that all sentient beings want to avoid suffering and seek pleasure. Evolution is stubborn in that choice.
But that’s the sleight of hand trick, for us humans, who can think about thinking, and strategize and philosophize. Ok, now we have an aim; avoid suffering and establish security, harmony, group and individual pleasure.
Here is why it’s a trick, in one word; evolution. Evolution works on the principle of competing interests, and competing solutions. It works on the principle of niches. Wherever there is one solution, that automatically creates an alternate approach. Wherever you have one sexual strategy that can work, that automatically opens up a new niche for an alternate sexual strategy. Wherever you find low socio-sexual high pair bonding lifetime monogamy strategies and societies, you’ll open up the opportunities for prostitution and libertines.
So that’s one reason why there is no one method towards happiness – the world is composed of competing interests. Evolution is built into the physics of how the cosmos works – even atoms evolved, as did molecules, and so forth. There is no way out of competition.
But there are other reasons why there is no way out of suffering. No way to stop forever playing the game of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
In a word: interdependence.
Independence is an illusion created by our clunky brain. Our human narrative constructs a “self”, which we consider stable, and is the hero of our story. It’s different than other selves. It’s a reasonable and useful generalization and mental map to have. A self. Evolution wants us to think that we have one. But it’s a clumsy concept, that falls apart whenever you look at it carefully.
But that knowledge won’t get you out of the “wheel of suffering”. Realizing that the self is an illusion won’t stop interdependence from being true. Your emotions and your health and your very physical survival are dependent on the actions of your environment – actions out of your control. You are interdependent, and nothing you can do with your mind will unplug you from that. No one can unplug from cause and effect.
But evolution was kind enough to us to give us common sense. Philosophy tends to make us reach out for impossible solutions, but common sense brings us back to common sense realities.
People get lonely. No amount of hermitage or meditation or navel gazing or magic incantations stop that from happening. There is no secret magic trick you can perform to stop you from getting lonely. You can’t “accept yourself” and stop being lonely.
You are interdependent. Your very hard wiring is constructed in a way that you can not change through sheer force of will, or through mental techniques and neuro-plastic reprogramming.
You do get lonely, and you will keep getting lonely.
You are part of a system. Your nervous system reacts to the world around you. You aren’t independent of it. You don’t have a self that you can unplug from the system.
So that’s why there is no final solution to happiness. Because we can’t fully control our environment, and our internal state is interdependent.
Interdependence is like death – no one wants to believe it. We prefer to construct an afterlife. We prefer to construct a soul. We want some self that is independent of life or death or food or sex – that can just be happy.
We don’t have one.
So it comes down to common sense; competing in the changing world by avoiding suffering and going after pleasure.
That game is unavoidable.
Ok, we can go through the stages of grief and accept that, and learn to be good at it.
Now, the Mark Minter affair of a guy who noticed that marriage was a bad deal and railed against it taught us all some good lessons.
It’s not enough to avoid suffering. It’s not enough to be a deconstructionist and point out the flaws in the marriage system. We also have to construct pleasure. We also have to be able to SUCCEED romantically. Anyone can be a movie critic – creating a movie is different thing. We are each creating our life movies – knowing what does not work will not create a successful movie.
I will take the next 5 or ten posts to explain something that seems to be invisible to so many people, but is blatant and staring in all of our faces obvious.
To succeed romantically you have to be romantically capable. You need skills at romance. Not just pick up skills. Pump and dump skills won’t give you romantic success.
Oh, and you can’t be happy with pump and dump. I mean, that’s a given and should be obvious, but I’m happy to debate the issue.
Humans are socially interdependent, and our basic psychological needs are, yes, pretty well universal.
We want intimacy. It’s easy to deny, but anyone offered pleasant intimacy with an attractive mate will accept it. The only reason anyone says he doesn’t want that is the sour-grapes reason. “Oh, I didn’t really want that job anyway”, said after being turned down after the interview. “Oh, I don’t really want a girl anyway, I WANT to go my own way”.
I will make the argument that it is possible to be expert at romance. That you can learn to be so good at it that your social interdependence becomes an overall pleasure. That you can win at the game that our nervous systems were evolved to thrust your illusory self into. You can win at the game of life satisfaction, especially through being successful at romance.
Readers – please push yourself to comment. Ideas come out of dialogue.