Don’t give a damn about happiness

By Jonathan Roseland

In my previous book, I wrote about how…

How to Be Cross Eyed“I’ve found the happiness that I didn’t give a damn about…”

Here I’ll explain why not giving a damn about happiness makes you happier, quantitatively and qualitatively. To illustrate the principle of “hedonic adaptation” I’d like you to think about going on a vacation...

Imagine the most awesome vacation

You fly to some beautiful exotic place with resplendent weather.
You check into an opulent hotel and settle into a well-appointed room with breathtaking views.
Maybe you’re vacationing with your best friends, or your family, or your significant other, or you’re alone (might be the way you like it).
No expense is spared doing the most awesome stuff; you take Scuba lessons, go surfing, go skydiving, jetskiing, hike serene mountain trails, do winter sports, rent off-roading vehicles, etc.
You meet the coolest, sexiest people poolside at your swanky hotel.
Your cool new friends invite you to join them for dinner and drinks at the top-rated-on-Tripadvisor local restaurants and bars. You gorge yourself on delicious (fresh sea) food while sipping top-shelf booze and laughing and swapping stories with your new friends.
Then you all go out to the most awesome parties or clubs; the music is bangin’, the people are sexy, and the drinks are strong (maybe you even do party drugs) — the revelry persists until the morning sun peaks over the blue horizon of the sea as you stumble back to your hotel room with a smile on your face.
You’re having a lot of sex (sometimes twice a day) either with your significant other or with some sexy (and tan) person you’ve met. It’s exciting and sometimes adventuresome sex.
And, of course, the whole time you’re uploading videos and photos of your awesome vacation on social media; the likes, emoticons, and (sometimes jealous) comments flood in with every upload.
It’s EPIC!

But, as you know, if you’ve ever had an epic vacation, it gets OLD, FAST!

Even with days filled to the brim with novelty, debauchery, and adventure after a week or two, you’ll be pretty sick of vacation. Welcome to hedonic adaptation; you’ve been racing on a hedonic treadmill that’s become a hamster wheel going nowhere. You could stave off your hedonic adaption to your glamorous life of fun in the sun by about a week by abstaining from drugs and booze, but eventually doing all these very fun things will just become tiresome. You’ll start to yearn for your normal life back home. Odd isn’t it?

I can attest to “hedonic vacation fatigue” myself! I’m writing this on the final day of a decadent week, that my wife and I have spent at the black sea. We lounged at the beach and swam every day, read books, ate great food, I did meditation at sunrise, we had amazing coffee (spiked with Bailey’s liqueur), and we banged (righteously! On the beach even, beneath the stars one night — which was very exciting — and also righteous.)

I realize that thanks to the great pandemic/plandemic of 2020, a lot of people didn’t get to take a vacation this very weird year. We were able to because…

  • We lived pretty spartanly this year, we stopped dining out. I spent my money on “doomsday” food prepping (which doesn’t seem so paranoid now, does it?)
  • And we dressed up for each other and did our date nights at home.
  • And the black sea coast is an AMAZING vacation value, especially at the end of September.

Before I got married, I took a grand total of two real vacations totaling two weeks in about 15 years. Since I’ve been married, I’ve adopted the Southern European lifestyle (a bit) and spend a few weeks a year on holiday (as the Brits say).

And, after a week, I’m glad to be getting back to my not-terribly-exciting life back in Sofia. Hedonic adaptation intervenes not just on vacation as you get sunburnt, but with almost everything; what makes you happy will soon make you bored.

  • We’ve all had friends that started dating some sexy, exciting, cool new person which for the first few months made them very happy. But, eventually, they grew bored with them. The red pill dating gurus like to say “For every beautiful woman that you see or meet, just remember, there is a guy(s) out there that has grown sick and tired of having sex with her…”
  • Booze, drugs, and sex will make you very happy for, at a maximum, a few hours, and then you’re not so happy when you come down from the high and you have to deal with the consequences of your indulgences.
  • Eating decadent food will make you feel great for at most a few hours, but then it does nothing for you.
  • You buy a fancy new electronic toy or gadget. It makes you very happy for, at maximum, a few weeks, and then it’s just another thing in your life.
  • You drop hundreds of dollars on the hot new smartphone and you beam with pride every time you take it out of your pocket. But after not long it gets scratched and people no longer ask, “Is that the new smartphone?”
  • You move into a nice new place or get a new car, and you’ll be very happy living there or driving it for a few months, but after a year it’s not so special.

The fleeting nature of happiness is my reason for not giving a damn about happiness.

You might say…

You’re describing a bunch of cheap thrills, of course, they don’t make you happy permanently.

Yeah, that’s something that we all hopefully learned at a young age. But, my objection is to making happiness your compass in life. Instead, make meaning your compass, and trust me, you’ll be a lot happier in the long term. I’m an ethical hedonist, which means choosing the greater pleasure over the lesser pleasure. It entails passing up on a lot of frequent pleasures. This is why we do our date nights at home instead of going to swank restaurants weekly. This is why we do a 24-hour fast every week (THIS is why, as you can see, my sexy wife and I are fit and skinny, we didn’t gain any weight during the COVID-19 lockdowns while a lot of people were getting chubby).

WIll Jada Smith

Recently a video went very viral of Jada Pinkett and Will Smith discussing Jada having an affair with some dumb rapper. In the video, Jada is conspicuously unapologetic and at one point she says something very telling…

I just wanted to feel good, it had been so long since I felt good…

Normal people will shake their heads in disbelief that someone privileged with incredible wealth and luxury just didn’t feel good. We also can’t say that Jada and Will don’t pursue meaning; they’ve been hugely successful and have formed a beautiful family. I’ll remind you that Jada has been into a bunch of wu-wu “draw happiness from within” stuff for decades; according to interviews she meditates daily in a meditation lounge (in their $42 million mansion!) I’m sure that their situation was complicated and we know that these kinds of scandals are often manufactured for perverse reasons. But happiness is clearly her compass and we can see in this example and innumerable others how making happiness one’s compass poisons meaning and has negative consequences. If Jada can’t afford enough happiness to "feel good" that should tell you something about happiness!

Every couple of years we see a case of some high-profile celebrity committing suicide inexplicably. These people with fame, money, and unlimited access to luxuries that we can only dream about just can’t take life anymore and decide to end it. Excess happiness and indulging in cheap thrills seem to rob even a meaningful life of the will to go on.

What’s the solution?


Buy a compass, leave it somewhere that you’ll see it often, as a reminder to make meaning your compass.

Happiness is a genetic mechanism that our selfish genes have crafted for their own perpetuation. It drives us to reproduce and then to eat a lot of food that will result in our demise so we can get out of the way of the coming generations. Almost every parent agrees that nothing makes them happier than their children. So becoming a parent (responsibly) is the surest bet for attaining lasting happiness. These people who stylishly shirk parenthood are just about guaranteeing themselves an unfulfilling and (ultimately lonely) life of chasing the mirage of fleeting pleasures.

Greek philosopher Epicurus

The Greek philosopher, Epicurus (who lived 2000 years ago, not that far from where we vacationed), nailed happiness when he prescribed what we term Epicurean living instead of indulging in cheap thrills for living a happy life. Epicurian living means being surrounded by your friends and people you like, prioritizing community. A true epicurean would make his best friends his neighbors. In stark contrast to modern life where many live in apartments, just meters away from people that they don’t know or particularly like, and then spend their days working with people they don’t like. No wonder we’re so obsessed with finding happiness!

Finally, I suggest that you redefine happiness in your mind.

Chronic suffering hurts a lot more than happiness feels good, so happiness should be the absence and avoidance of chronic, long-term suffering.
For example, this year I read some good books about the horrifying specter of the cancer epidemic, the experts are telling us that we all have about a coin flip’s chance of getting cancer in our lifetimes. The suffering entailed in having cancer cannot be overstated, you should move heaven and earth to avoid it. I just finished an important book on this topic, The Plant Paradox by Dr. Steven R. Gundry, it’s about how many of the fruits and vegetables that you may think are healthy actually cause cancer and a host of other diseases. And I know what you’re thinking…

Oh great! Now fruits and vegetables cause cancer? What the heck am I supposed to eat then, water?

Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that, which is why you should at the least check out my book review

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