If you want to be happy find a burden. If you want to be happy stop chasing after happiness and start making your life more difficult. Instead looking for happiness, why not find something difficult to do? Instead of trying to ‘reduce stress’ why not look for a monster to battle? We live in a funny word: the search for perpetual comfort, leads to perpetual dissatisfaction; the pursuit of titillation mostly leads to disappointment and a pornographic world. But Meaning is actually found in heroically conquering inertia.
I’ll say it again: try to make your life more stressful — if you have food, shelter and enough money that is. It’s might not be true that there is too much stress in the modern world, but that there is too little positive stress — too little urgency. Negative stress come from not being engaged in something meaningful, from being isolated, from being lazy — it’s as much to do with inertia as with overwork. The supposed ‘culture of pleasure’ is actually a ‘culture of depression’. It is all about twittering away on your iPhone rather than making a life.
Of course, I’m not advocating some kind of gloomy Protestantism here. Play and fun are essential — however, the best play comes after the monumental task has been completely, when the gordian knot has been cut, when the albatross has been slaughtered, when the boulder has been rolled up the hill. Why do people have jobs? The economy might be a secondary concern. The fact is that if people aren’t engaged in something challenging they become monsters. And when the AI comes take all of our jobs, the human race will become hairless, limbless monsters — unless we develop more challenging and monumental tasks for ourselves, that is.
You are not ‘OK just the way you’ are if you are not living fully — to pretend otherwise is to sell your soul to a flaccid new age philosophy, which does not encourage excellence or transcendence, obviously. You will love yourself more if you do something difficult — if you confront your dark nature, your lie. The lie is that you are not worthy or capable of being heroic, that you are not up to the task, that you are better off as a slave to mechanical impulse and drift. The slave always serves the tyrant rather than his better nature — and the tyrant is always deep down a slave to desire for dominion and control, which comes from fear of deep relationship and meaning.
Taking up the positive burden of relationship is the remedy to existential isolation and nihilism, and brings us back to meaning. We should find relationships that challenges us, rather than ones that buttresses our ego constructions. This means being willing to be heroically lonely at times, and to be rejected by people who can’t handle your ‘edginess’. Relationship is by nature edgy. It would be such a relief if we could see this. If we stopped trying to make our relationships ‘stress-free’ or without friction. Of course, after a lot of work and sacrifice a relationship can become something mostly effortless and beautiful — but that is the result of taking up the monumental task in the beginning.
Real freedom is the joy of a burden, not weightlessness. Real freedom is the freedom to pursue a great task, to carry a great weight. The weightless kind of freedom your ego wants is actually a hell: there is no no ground to touch there, no path to take — it’s like being stranded in outer space, in nullity — it’s the ultimate seduction. We require a weight, we need to carry a load; we need gravitas, heaviness, struggle, stress. Don’t listen to the sirens who are telling you otherwise, who are offering you insurance and techniques for happiness and the latest spiritual ‘asana’ — those who are telling you that you don’t need to do anything to be worthy of existence. This is not the human lot. And it will keep you a child forever, or prolong your adolescence. A 45-year-old child is one who has not taken up his burden, who has not departed from the all-consuming oedipal mother, who hasn’t yet gone out into the wilderness to kill a dragon and rescue a virgin, as the fairy tales have it. Those old stories tell us how becoming works and how being is validated. We can take up that burden consciously, or be crushed by the the unconscious burden of inadvertence. Either way, gravity is king. What goes up mindlessly comes crashing down.