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Which would you rather be - Smart, or Happy?

The two seem to be mutually exclusive. One of my favorite books opens with the protagonist on the roof of an asylum with a sharp, sharp pencil pressed to his ear considering this problem, and threatening to make the choice right there.

Which would you pick, smart, or happy? I would start off the responses, but honestly I can't decide, since from all observable evidence having one really does mean abdicating the other. I know what I have now, and I don't know that I could be happy as a person that didn't use the word abdicating correctly in a sentence. Does that mean that I am stuck with smart, and that happy will remain a non-option?

I expect comments. Yes, I am looking at you.

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Smart...definitely. Happy is fleeting, and I get happy sometimes. True, the instances of happy are far too few. However, I just could not see going through life without experiencing books and movies and good conversation and good laughs. I think the idea of sitting around watching Jerry Springer or somesuch, would make me stab that sharp pencil DEEP into my ear without a second's hesitation.
Oh yeah, and I was told (by a complete MORON,) that smart girls with wit are not sexy. They are just scary. So I have that going for me I guess.

But if you weren't smart, then you wouldn't realize what you were missing. The trick is, of course, that being dumb doesn't guarantee happiness either.

It sure does seem to make it easier though. While I sit around having existential crises around the nature of my self and the existance of free will other, far dumber, people are getting laid.

> since from all observable evidence having one really does mean abdicating the other

I don't think this is entirely true--because nothing brings me down more than when I make a stupid mistake and feel really dumb.

> The trick is, of course, that being dumb doesn't guarantee happiness either.

Happiness is an entirely relative thing -- like a sense of temperature. I never really know what the temperature is I just know when I'm getting colder or warmer. In the same way I don't really think of myself as being "happy" or "sad" moment to moment, but I know when my mood is changing from one to the other.

> While I sit around having existential crises around the nature of my self and the existance of free will other, far dumber, people are getting laid.

It's unhealthy to sit around and have existential crises and engage in other self-destructive behaviors. It's much better to TRAVEL, have existential crises, and engage in other self-destructive behaviors. Some really good literature has also been written by people doing just that.

"I don't think this is entirely true--because nothing brings me down more than when I make a stupid mistake and feel really dumb"

That's because you are smart - I don't think that dumb people ever feel really dumb for making dumb mistake - they expect to, and it's okay for them to make them.

"In the same way I don't really think of myself as being "happy" or "sad" moment to moment, but I know when my mood is changing from one to the other."

I'm just the opposite. I'm hyperaware of whether or not I'm happy or sad at all times, but I cannot tell when it's going to change. There is probably medication for this condition.

These people who travel to have their existential crises - are they getting laid? If so, that sounds like a pretty good deal; I'm pretty sure that Spaulding Gray got tons of tail. Then again, he did kill himself, so maybe that's not a solution either...

> These people who travel to have their existential crises - are they getting laid?

Depends on where you're going and when. Paris after World War I was what I was thinking of as an example, and it that case, that would be a yes. While it's probably overrun with Americans and...uh...Entrepeneurs Prague is probably the new Paris.

But seriously, There is definitely something to be said for recognizing when your formerly-familiar-and-comfortable-surroundings-and-routines are now just alien-and-unfamiliar. The best thing to do in those circumstances is go someplace where you EXPECT things to be alien-and-unfamiliar.

Other alternatives for smart people having existential crises usually involve taking terrible risks for intellectual or philisophical reasons, i.e. running-runs-against-the-Fascists-in-the-Spanish-civil-war kinda stuff. I suppose the modern equivalent would be attempting to export Atheism/Rude French Existentialism to the Middle East(especially this week).

> I'm just the opposite. I'm hyperaware of whether or not I'm happy or sad at all times, but I cannot tell when it's going to change. There is probably medication for this condition.

...or just a different sort of activity. I think a lot of the great art in the world came out of people with uncontrollable emotional extremes finding ways to channel them into a work that others can appreciate(or which others find highly offensive)

Lately, I've been goofing around with http://www.songfight.org just as a way to focus myself on learning how to write songs. So far I haven't submitted anything but having the deadlines and the initial inspiration provided has helped me focus, and I've had a lot of fun with it.

> That's because you are smart

Uh, no. I am not really all that smart. If I have to pick one or the other to describe myself I'm definitely much more of a happy person than a smart person. (This is not an attempt to fish for compliments, it's just the truth)

I would venture to say that the choice should be more along the lines of "Is it better to be right, or happy". From my experience, I find that I am often more happy when I give up the need to be right. Along with the increase in happiness, I also find that my obsession with myself lessens a bit, which also leads to more happiness. The angriest, most depressed people that I have met are usually those who have to be right, are exceedingly self obsessed, or both. Obviously this is somewhat reductive, but I find it useful.

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This page contains a single entry by edgore published on July 12, 2006 10:57 PM.

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