Thoughts of a geek

1 June 2009

Happiness

Filed under: Me — Tags: , , , , , , — qwandor @ 12:45 am

Sometimes I am happy, often I am fairly neural, and sometimes I am unhappy.

When I am happy I tend to be inspired to work on things (or start new projects), to make the effort to talk to people, and even to be somewhat sociable.

When I am unhappy I tend to be unmotivated, not do much, take long walks in the middle of the night or just sit or lie around feeling sorry for myself. I suppose I think more about myself and less about other people.

Anyway, I have given a little consideration to what tends to make me happy. One of the main things, I think, is making things which other people like and appreciate. Some examples of this are:

  • I have been doing some work lately on a robot which lorne and I want to make. Trying to get an IO expander working with a Meraki over I2C, programming a PIC to talk to the Meraki, getting parts to build H-bridges, that sort of thing. Having him appreciate how cool it is, and get excited at the little achievements along the way (I2C is working, I just needed to add pull-ups! The PIC is running fine off 3.3 V now, disabling BOREN did the trick!) helps me to keep motivated. Working on a project with smart people is fun!
  • It is nice that people are using and apparently liking theQuotebook. It took a lot of work to get it to the point where it now is, and there are still many more things to be fixed, added and improved. What I have really liked though is when friends have taken the time to try things out, think about it, say what they like and dislike, and sometimes offer suggestions. Thanks to shoeshine, Melanie, Josh, Valerie and anyone else who has made suggestions or comments.
  • I like it when I bake stuff and people like it. Be it muffins, or the steamed pudding (with custard) which I made tonight and my flatmates consumed, focaccia bread yesterday, the apple scotch I made for the pot-luck we had at my lifegroup quite a few weeks ago (though it got quite burnt; I should never have let myself be persuaded to put it into the oven).

I guess a big part of this comes from just wanting to feel appreciated, or at least acknowledged, by people about whom I care. For similar reasons I guess, I appreciate it when people make the effort to talk to me, email me, ask how I am, even spend time with me. Certainly, I tend to find that talking to people can make me happier, when I can manage it. Or when someone makes the effort to talk to me even though I am frustrated or irritated and unsociable and hard to talk to.

There is still a fair bit about what effects my mood that I do not understand though. Sometimes I am just unhappy or unmotivated for no particular reason that I can see; on the odd occasion I even find myself happy for no reason I can discern.

Oh, and I really enjoyed contradancing the weekend before last at the St. Michael’s fundraiser, once I got into it anyway. I am not sure how that fits in. Probably something to do with the combination of live music, positive social interaction and physical activity. Thanks, Stevie and Allan, for dragging me along.

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5 Comments »

  1. Hmmmm. I haven’t really come to any conclusions yet, but one observation I have is that you’ve written a blog about happiness without once mentioning God. Not that being a Christian means being constantly happy, as some pentecostal churches might have us believe, but I think there is a certain joy and satisfaction and pleasure in doing God’s will, maybe a thought that might be worth investigating in relation to your post.

    Comment by tommo39 — 1 June 2009 @ 1:53 am

    • That is a good point. I am not quite sure how God fits in. Certainly the bible talks a lot about joy: words beginning with ‘joy’ show up 197 times in the ESV, mostly in Psalms and Isaiah. Habakkuk talks about rejoicing and taking ‘joy in the God of my salvation’ even when life is hard. Jesus says in John 15:11 that he has taught his disciples certain things so that their ‘joy may be full’.

      John 16:20-22 says that we will have sorrows in this life, but will rejoice when Jesus returns. Certainly it is important to have something to look forward to in the end, but it can still be difficult living day to day.

      Paul prays in Romans 15:13 that God will fill his readers with joy, which suggests that it is not the case that all Christians are joyful. Colossians 1:11 has a similar sentiment. Jesus was motivated by joy, according to Hebrews 12:2. And in James 1:2 James tells the believers to ‘count it all joy’ when they meet trials and have their faith tested. But how are we to do that? I certainly do not know.

      All that said, joy and happiness seem not to be quite the same thing anyway. Though I am not entirely clear on the distinction.

      Comment by qwandor — 1 June 2009 @ 9:49 am

  2. Hey man,

    I feel like I’m seeing a lot of myself mirrored in your posts. I don’t think emotions are something that can be figured out and controlled though – sometimes you feel a certain way and you just don’t know why. I’ve given up trying to figure some of it out.

    I think you need to find someone to talk to about all this stuff aswell as putting it online. I think the former will actually help you work towards a solution where as I found the latter just helped me reorganise my scattered thoughts into a more helpful but still unsolvable order.

    I can also understand if you feel distant from God and it’s not an easy thing to live with – I don’t understand how people can do it long term. I’d keep persisting because I found the more I wanted to reconnect the more I wanted to learn about God and the more helpful it was. I’m reading The Shack which has helped a lot and challenged some of the preconceptions I had about God.

    Comment by serenecloud — 1 June 2009 @ 10:08 am

  3. I agree Andrew, happiness and joy are two quite different things. Joy is our deepest happiness, because it affects our deepest needs – hope and salvation. But we have other things that concern us, not just the destiny of our souls and our value to God. How others treat us, and opportunities to spend time with others, is one thing that totally affects our mood, and there’s often a big gap between the ideal and the real. And I don’t think God would expect us to be happy with this. Similarly when we are lacking opportunities to apply and express the skills we have, or lacking access to resources, or being deprived of power. These things shouldn;t affect our joy – ie our deepest conviction that “everything’s going to be ok,” and present trials aren’t cause to step away from our commitments to God, or to life. But if they’re not affecting our happiness and mood at a more day-by-day level we’d need to be worried about our sensitivity to the sort of life God has created us for, which we all long for and which he promises to bring about when Christ returns.

    Such a true observation, though, that a lot of the time we don’t even know why we are happy or sad. And if no connection is apparent that doesn’t mean we should delve into a whole bunch of psychoanalysis to figure out why we feel that way. As far as I know there is no evidence, in psychology, science or theology that suggests there is always some REASON for every emotional state we experience. This is one useful critique existentialism does seem to contribute to the human discourse. Given that we have a high degree of intentionality to the way we experience and manage our lives, so much so that the Judeo-Christian tradition has concluded we are made in the image of God (himself being the ultimate ultimate cause), I think there is room in the Christian tradition to accept a balance of essentialism and existentialism in understanding our behaviour as human beings.

    Comment by A.J.Chesswas — 1 June 2009 @ 7:46 pm

  4. At a much shallower level than all the above discussion I think God actually made us to enjoy interacting with each other and to find joy in human relationships. (I think “It is not good for man to be alone” has a wider application than just in marriage). So finding happiness in doing things that others appreciate is pretty much how God intended to be.

    Comment by Neil Walbran — 1 June 2009 @ 8:08 pm


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