October 10, 2010

Happiness tends to Zero

This post was inspired by the short film "Happiness Tends to Infinity," (recommended) by Yinka Selley.

I met an engineer in a design room in the Stanmore branch of Marconi Defence systems, a missile company at which I worked. The design room was a Porta Cabin and the interior decor rather bleak. The engineer sat behind one of those drawing boards equipped with a mechanical set-square-come-ruler-thing.

He moved it adroitly, across plans for missiles, I presume. Prior to working for Marconi, he had been in the Navy and had travelled the world. He had a different equation of happiness, which was based on one of Newtonfsf laws, the second I think. Newton's second law is often expressed as


or force equals mass times acceleration.

Of these the engineer equated force with happiness and velocity with materialistic states of being including health, and acceleration with changes in these states. I am not sure if how mass figured in the equation but perhaps it has something to do with attachment - the number of people with whom one shares things being a major, but not determining factor. The above equation can be rewritten as

Force = mass x (velocity2 - velocity1)/time

Which may be substituted for

Happiness = attachment x (state1 - state2)/time

In other words people feel happiness when they are ggetting thereh, but not when they have got there. Or that that states - such as being rich, being healthy, or whatever - do not himself or herself cause happiness or unhappiness. Happiness cannot be stored or accumulated. The engineerfs equation seemed quite plausible, at the time.

Bearing in mind that life tends to draw an arc, which ends in death, while on the rise our achievements bring us happiness as long as we do not achieve them, and in the longer term at least for the second part the general trend is down. Given a steady state, or one which is not changing much,

Happiness/Sadness = attachment * (state1 - state2)/time

If state1 = state2 then Happiness = 0

The engineer recommended marriage (this was the topic of our conversation, and how he had ended up in Stanmore) as a way of introducing waves (up and downs) into ones life, without which there would be no happiness, so he claimed.

Interestingly, this equation is almost the reverse of that proposed by Yinka Selley.

This does not mean that either is incorrect.

On the contrary, perhaps zero and infinity meet! In my limited experience of Buddhism the reduction of attachment is said to result in being ultimately free from suffering. This is pretty darn good. And sometimes accompanied by rapture. And, attachment and anticipation are clearly linked. I am not sure how.... perhaps attachment is anticipation frozen, or the attempt.

Posted by timtak at October 10, 2010 06:26 PM