autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

Archival: On being, happiness, hope, and “all things working out for the best”

Placing this here for my own reference if/as needed. Over at Quora, someone asked, “Do things really “always seem to work themselves out? I have always failed to understand this maxim. Can we sit back with positive optimism or make things work out as we intend it to?”

I answered:

Yes, they do; not because there is some optimistic perspective or even a directed method “to make this so” but because any given moment is fleeting, passing, and no matter what your perspective is, the act of continuing in linear manner from birth to death means that any act not resulting in death is “working out”.

This does not mean things work out “as you’d like”, but they definitely do change and continue right up to the point they don’t (i.e., death).

This does not have to mean some “belief in higher power” or predestination or even determinism is required; it simply means that your life goes on, regardless, until the moment it no longer does so.

As for the connotation contained in your phrasing (i.e., that things work out “for the best”), I would say that most people do not find this to be the case. This said, I would also say that this is usually because there is a level of expectation in play that any given preferred outcome has some increased probability of occurrence just because a given person prefers it. Obviously, this is not correct and, if one has a preference that is possible to attain, anything less than acting in direct and beneficial accord with it as a means of gaining it, frankly, is ludicrous.

And with all THAT said, I would further say that most suffering is a direct result of either wishing for what has passed, wishing for what has not arrived, or wishing to hold something in the act of passing; none of these things are possible and if there is a great mystery to be resolved, I would assert it has to do with humanity’s inability or unwillingness to accept “things as they are” in these situations.

To which someone else commented and questioned,

“There are heavy themes of existential ethos peppered across in it. Building upon your answer here, i would be interested in how can you explain this belief system to someone who has suffered a terrible loss or tragedy? Human’s always try to seek some meaning /purpose into the things that happen to them and try to make some sense of reality around them.  I agree that the ‘expectations-dream gap’  is the banality of our misery very often. Is giving someone a sense of hope and positive optimism a bad thing?

Would you also say that things are the way we they are for better or for worse and nothing really matters in totality?”

And this is the response I gave them:

Being someone who has suffered both terrible loss and tragedy has led me to this belief system; it, to me, seems the only logical and reasoned way to continue seeking fulfillment and happiness in life.

I do not think there is some objective, metaphysical “sense” to be made of this life, nor do I think that is necessary to be happy, obviously. Things are as they are; sometimes, things happen and there are no reasons that make them “easier” or “better”; I think our choice is either to accept this “as it is” or not.

I do not think that having hope or optimism is some invincible barrier to these things, and it often seems to me that humans use either as if they can be this… they seek delusion to avoid unhappiness and instead, it becomes the seed from which unhappiness grows.

I do not find it logical to think that, because things are as they are, this means “nothing matters”. In fact, for me, it means that the only thing that matters is the experience I am having right here, right now.

There are things that have happened in my past, but they only have as much hold on me as I grant them. There are things that may or may not happen in the future, but the hope or fear of them is unrealized and unknown… why should I (or would I) give up the happiness I have in this moment for these things?

If I am unhappy in this moment, or fearful in this moment, the hope of better “in future” is helpful to me only if or when there is a preponderance of evidence that “better” is soon to arrive. But, on the flip-side, every moment a hope goes unrealized, it becomes that much more a disappointment, and puts me at risk of despair, so I try to avoid “hope” as much as anything.

I suppose that sounds bleak to some, but it truly works for me. There is a fragile beauty to my experience; I know it is fleeting and transient, I know it will pass as everything, eventually passes. I know that, in this, I have no choice or recourse against the inevitable eventuality – not in relation to my friends, my family, my peers, or even myself. I know that I have no guarantees that that eventuality is not, in fact, waiting on my doorstep even as I type this.

Because of this, I cannot find reason or logic in living as if there is reason to do other than fiercely seek and savor delight, enjoyment, and fulfillment right now; I see no purpose to clinging to old hurts, nursing far-flung future hopes. Neither have the capacity to truly give me contentment in this moment; indeed, all they do is leech any delight, enjoyment, or fulfillment from this moment.

In my personal, anecdotal experience, there is no recourse for old hurts but to set them aside; there is no insurance for future outcomes but to strive toward them while simultaneously refusing to be attached to them as certainties… the ingredients of happiness I carry with me, in myself, by how I choose to react and how I choose to think about my experience.

I think this is probably something I need to keep here so I can refer to it in those moments when I forget it. At this moment, at least, I do not imagine I could forget it, but then, you know how life can be sometimes.