Happiness: well-being vs. pleasure

After visiting Alaska for the first time, my buddy Chuy posted a picture with the caption, “If you do Alaska the way we did it, it reaches into the man’s soul and gives it a sense of eudaimonic well-being.”

To nail down on this (in a totally amateur, I got a C in philosophy in college sort of way) eudaimonic (eudemonic) well-being is to be fully functional, not just pursuing happiness though pleasurable experiences.

What I like most with eudaimonic well-being is that it’s a psychological well-being stemming from purpose and social contribution not just #YOLO.

I’ve marinated on this for a few weeks.

Happiness is subjective. Totally subjective. Even describing the “why” of happiness is nearly impossible. I love hunting, but I don’t really love killing. I love the process of being successful and providing, but again, that deer was only guilty of murdering plant life. Anti-hunters might conclude that since I love hunting I love watching animals die or being cruel to them. Totally not true, though there are definitely those who enjoy the actual killing.

Personal and human history is filled with “if it feels good, do it” ideology that leads to destruction because it’s not about wellness, it’s about temporary pleasure or a high.

There is a huge difference, but as is the case with philosophy, it’s not easy to pin down.

Yeah, I love hunting and fishing and camping and everything alone. I love solitude, but it doesn’t replace experiences with other people. It doesn’t replace the wellness you feel when you are engaged in a multi-faceted strategy to dominate as many aspects of life as possible with like-minded people. That’s wellness.

I feel well. I feel healthy. I feel that there is a purpose that goes beyond the simplicity of “fun.” But it has to be a continual process. Stagnancy will wipe away that feeling if I’m not careful.

I think that’s why people can love Southeast Alaska even in years like this, with more feet of snow in March than sunny days during summer. (Well, at least it seemed like it.)

There’s a unique wellness that’s possible here. That tenacity and sense of community that comes in a place simultaneously mesmerizing and miserable.

Everyone who visits me from the Lower 48 remarks about the friendliness of the people here. All it takes is one question while waiting for a fish taco and a robust conversation ensues.

It makes the drug problem here even more troubling. With such opportunity to live physically and emotionally healthy, for addiction to thwart well-being is tragic.

We don’t live on asphalt farms. The wild isn’t hemmed in by traffic and population.

Donald Miller wrote that people who are invited to live better, more purposeful stories become healthier and happier. I don’t pretend to be perfect, have the secret to life, or have anything figured out other than what seems to work for me. I don’t know how we invite people, especially kids, to live well rather than risk their futures with highly addictive substances.

I do know that I am happy I had mentors in my life that made me want to fish, hunt or at least get outside every weekend. Though I never hunted or fished with them, I felt part of that community – a community of people who indulged in complex wellness, not simple pleasure, and it shaped my entire life.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Pete says:

    One should never even consider the why when one examines the statement that ‘if you give it a chance Alaska will grab your very soul and not let go’. It is truly based on one’s prospective… and the second idiom, ‘people either love it or hate it’, sets one prospective of Alaska. But seeing I reveled in the remote living experience far from cities and people, I do hope most people will just visit, admire and then leave the state.

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