Ian Mackaye on Happiness

Although I know little of his music, I’m a big fan of Ian Mackaye as a person/activist and could watch him speak all day. I came across this clip today.

And what leapt out at me was this piece on ‘what is happiness’

The word happy like many words has been perverted. Perverted by society to some degree, but by a marketplace entirely. I think for me, to be happy, […] is to not be thinking about it. Fun and happiness are both overrated. I think that people think of those as ideals, I think life is the ideal. The way i’ve always tried to live is to be in the moment. Just do my work. Y’know, just try to deal with things as they come along. I’m not thinking about anything else, I’m just doing this right now. That’s happiness.

I think there’s a lot of truth in this. Ironically, one of the ways we make ourself unhappy is by thinking about happiness. We strive for an ideal situation, and when we inevitably fall short, we are disappointed. We fantasize about a great night, a great weekend, a great job etc. and reality can never live up to the ideal. This is not to say that we cannot strive for things to be better, but to fixate on having ‘fun’ and being ‘happy’, I think, leads only to disappointment. But if we were to focus on doing what we are doing, moment to moment, then we would enjoy those moments as they are. Indeed, something which could make us happy, we can distort into being an unsatisfactory experience, because it is being compared to the ideal.

Mackaye also appears in Dylan Haskin’s 2008 documentary “Roll Up Your Sleeves” about DIY culture and towards the end he points at the camera and says “this movie may never get made, it’s OK, it seems like you had a pretty incredible experience making it, and I had a pretty good time talking to you.”. Or as Trungpa Rinpoche said, “The path is the goal.”

I wanna have something to do. That’s what I want to do with my life. I wanna wake up and feel like I see what I do, and I wanna do it. That’s how I would like to live, and it’s how I try to live. If I’m working, I’m not thinking about it, and that strikes me as a very happy existence.