“Happy” Versus “In Flow”

In last Thursday's piece, I wrote this: "I'm still learning how to be happy. It turns out that happy as a baseline demands a different approach to life than what I lived previously." On reflection, I feel a need to be a bit more careful with my words.

Happy is a tricky word. The way I used it, I implied that happy is something more consistent and sustainable than the normal rise-and-fall of emotions. But feelings are just feelings. When I think of Mango, which I do pretty much daily, I feel grief and sadness. When I scan the headlines in the NYTimes or WSJ, I usually feel some combination of anger and fear. When I think that my beloved Tottenham Hotspur play hated arch-rival Arsenal THIS COMING SATURDAY, WHEE, I feel excitement. All of these are just emotions. They arise when they're appropriate. They pass away when they're not.

What I'm really saying is that I live much more in flow now. Because of how flow drives one's attention to the present, I'm much more likely now to notice the pleasure life offers moment by moment, and that leads, pretty directly, to feelings of happiness. But happiness remains an ephemeral emotion, just a feeling, no less transient than any other.

But I'm finding that there is a baseline emotional difference that comes from living in flow, and that it's actually hard to put into words. I stumble around and end up saying something along the lines of "I'm happier now," which, again, isn't exactly wrong, but doesn't capture the deeper truth.

After enough consideration, something occurred to me: it's hard to put this difference into words in English because modern English developed in cultures that haven't lived in flow for a long, long time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *