07/13/2022 - 15:00

Stumbled upon this thread on Hacker News.

“I have the perfect job, why is it not enough?”

The first answer is interesting. The author to the thread would presumably lives through something called the “hedonic treadmill” which is basically some sort of elasticity of our own happiness or our sense of satisfaction with the components of our life. We get to a new standard, adjust to a “new normal” and get bored with it and naturally want “more”, whatever “more” refers to.

I am somehow not satisfied with that answer even though it seems like the most popular one.

I’d like to take a shot at answering them. So first thing first, I have to start with some of the assumptions that are made in the title of the thread.

Regardless whether any of the above is true or false, I start to wonder about the logical connection between what the author feels and what they describe as the logical causes for that feeling.

Reframing slightly: what does it take for one to feel content with their life, to wake up every single morning and feel truly satisfied, to the point they wouldn’t change a single thing?

I personally think you’d have to be either severely sedated or maybe indoctrinated to feel content all the time. What’s a life worth living? And finally, is “satisfaction” or feeling like “I’ve had enough” really the goal we need to have for ourselves in order to just… not end it right here right now? Is a life worth living a life without insatisfactions? The author writes:

“It is probably human to always want more.”

I am not sure about that. Or at least, I am not sure what “more” refers to in this context. More money? More responsibilities? More recognition from our peers? More knowledge about our craft? I understand this is something that we may want at times, but are they all part of our nature? And are they a fundamental condition to a life worth living?

Here’s what I think: happiness isn’t worth a damn thing. A life sedated, on drugs, where you’d feel happy and content for 150 years is worth nothing. I do not want that life. Who wants that life?

We strive for more than happiness or contentment, we want justice, we want freedom, we want answers, we want many things to make that happiness worth of anything. What the author is struggling with is what every healthy/grounded person feels all the time at their core: this world is irrational, this world is complex, our existence within this vast cold universe means nothing, and yes Camus is right:

The quest to discover the meaning of our life is the essence of our existence.

What the author feels is not a desire to have more, it is a willingness to discover the meaning of their own life. They are not on a treadmill, they are at peace within modernity and are simply facing the existential void. There is no cure, no technical solution to that. We do not engineer our way out of that void - precisely because that void is at the heart of our existence. Suppressing the void by changing job, buying a new car or house, having an affair is denying our own humanity. Maybe we should give that feeling a real shot. It may lead us to unexpected yet interesting new places.