The World’s Happiest Man Interview took place because, when I heard about him, I wanted more. Not just about him but also that elusive condition — happiness — no one defines in exactly the same way.
By David Stone
Talking Shop with The World’s Happiest Man
Having written articles on everything from urban renewal induced hooker migrations to the common cold, I find writing about happiness harder than anything else.
Happiness is an elusive term for which no consensus exists. What is it, really?
So, I decided to go find the guy who says he’s The World’s Happiest Man, to see if he had some interesting answers.
The World’s Happiest Man Interview
What Is Happiness?
Me: I guess the first, obvious question is what makes you so confident in making such a claim?
World’s Happiest Man: “Look around. How many challengers do you see? You know, Dave, it’s a lot like the old saying about the weather –- everyone talks about it, but no one ever does anything. Happiness is like that. Nobody does anything much about it, at least not for long.”
How do you mean?
World’s Happiest Man: “Either they don’t think they can do anything about it, or if they do, they decide not to. I think it’s the former. Most people think life happens to them, when it’s the other way around. They just hang around in the comfortable set point and let the four winds blow.”
Lightning doesn’t strike…?
Are you saying that people happen to life, not the other way around? Is that it?
World’s Happiest Man:” Read your physics, man. It goes without saying. Scientists have known forever that nothing happens until something moves. Life is an eager pool of potentials, a jiggling quantum soup of anticipation, but it can’t pull its own trigger.”
Lightning doesn’t strike?
World’s Happiest Man: “Actually, it does. I may have stretched the truth a little to make a point. Just because people maintain the activity level of a twig, it doesn’t mean that nothing else is going on, but from an existential point of view, it’s your action that sorts it out and makes something or nothing of it.
“I’ll give you an example. Lightning strikes, and by the way, naysayers always reach for the most extreme example… Anyway, lightning lights up the sky outside your window. Do you stand in excitement and awe at the spectacle, or do you run to the bathroom and try to wedge your noggin in between the toilet and the wall. Do you activate or suffocate?”
“So, you are saying–and have written–that happiness is, without exception, a choice, a decision about taking action?
World’s Happiest Man: “What is it the kids used to say… ‘Well, duh.'”
Working my way through the world’s happiest man interview was easier than expected. It just flowed.
Me: A lot of people would find that a little hard to swallow.
World’s Happiest Man: “True, of course, but either you are the victim of your circumstances or the beneficiary or – and this is the big one – you stop thinking like a judge and enjoy everything about yourself and the world around you. To my way of thinking, the glass is neither half-full or half-empty, it’s always one-hundred percent full. No exceptions. There are no vacuums. It can’t be half-full. The other half is full of something. The rest is just attitude.”
“If Helen Keller didn’t prove that physical handicaps are trivial…”
Excuse me for taking the extreme case again, but suppose you are born with a crippling and painful handicap, what then? Doesn’t that make the choice for happiness seem a little unlikely?
World’s Happiest Man: “Not at all, if for no other reason than that it still comes back to choice. You, me, all of us are here for a purpose, a very easy and simple to understand purpose, and you can go about that, joyful at the chance to fulfill your purpose or crying because it’s difficult.
“If Helen Keller didn’t prove that physical handicaps are trivial in the face of a determined individual, then nothing ever will.
“And when it comes down to it, happiness does not seem to be dependent on personal twists of fate. Some of the most consistently miserable people I’ve ever met were what you’d call well off. Millionaires in perfect health kill themselves. Everyone seems shocked. Why? Because money and good health are simply facts. Facts can’t recruit happiness. They can’t even suggest it, unless you’ve drank the Kool-Aide. But that’s another story. Beliefs can get you into all sorts of useless places.”
Facts are inert?
World’s Happiest Man: “Of course. They’re facts.”
I knew that, but I wanted you to confirm for the record.
World’s Happiest Man: “Done.”
Can you elaborate? No.
You mentioned purpose. Can we circle back to that one?
World’s Happiest Man: “Circle…”
You said, if I remember, that it’s easy and simple to understand. Purpose, I mean. Can you elaborate?
World’s Happiest Man: “No.”
World’s Happiest Man: “Because it isn’t elaborate. it’s simple, like I said. It’s a waste of time to make it seem like some massive truth. It isn’t.”
Okay. Let’s give simple a try. Can you explain it in simple terms?
World’s Happiest Man: “We are here for one simple purpose – to have original experiences. There isn’t anything else.”
World’s Happiest Man: “Not necessarily from what I’ve seen. It’s hard to understand the sense of repeating experiences, yours or someone else’s, but there it is. We keep doing exactly that.”
Are you talking about being in ruts?
World’s Happiest Man: “That and being frozen into a routine. One of my friends calls it ‘stuckness.’ I like that. It has a stodgy ring to it. Let’s not kid ourselves that it’s the worst thing, though.”
“The worst thing, and I do mean the worst thing, is vicarious experience.”
World’s Happiest Man: “Meaning the worst thing is not when you repeat yourself. Circumstances are always different, so there’s always some originality, even without effort. The worst thing, and I do mean the worst thing, is vicarious experience. Not another species in the world would settle for that in so big a way. We are always watching, and worst part of that is that we aren’t even demanding anything especially interesting. Reality TV? Are you kidding? Better off dropping acid and taking a real trip.”
So, you’re point is that the reason we are here, the reason everyone is here, is to have experiences, but most of us aren’t having very good ones. Is that accurate?
World’s Happiest Man: “Of course.”
I guess the big question, and my last one for now is, why? Why live ineptly?
World’s Happiest Man: “Look, Dave, I’ll give you the simple truth, and you can make of it what you may: People do things for one reason and one reason only, because they want to and there’s nothing substantial enough around to stop them.”
It’s desire, then?
World’s Happiest Man: “Desire, inspire, acquire, whatever. If you haven’t gotten your own internal thing going, you’ll be sucked along by whoever has the carrot.”
World’s Happiest Man:” Sorry, gotta go. My desire is for frozen yogurt, and there’s a great new place over on Lexington. No time to stifle myself, but come back again. I never run out of opinions… Or happiness.”
With that, my World’s Happiest Man Interview ended. I decided to record it word for word without interpretation. Does it speak for itself? I don’t know, but he certainly seemed happy to me.
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