We only caught the tail-end of the final episode – “Rethinking happiness” – of a three-part PBS series titled “This Emotional Life.” The snippets we caught dealt with some interesting ideas on happiness as they relate to age.
Older people, it seems, are generally happier than younger ones…. 65-year-olds are happier than 47-year-olds who are happier than 25-year-olds.
There are all kinds of reasons, but the gist of it, by our lights, is that older people are happier because they are more absurd.
One of the reasons researchers found for happiness in older people: they were less burdened by the future. “The future is a burden,” one of the researchers said. We plan for it. We worry about it. And it affects our present day happiness. Older people, perhaps because they have less of a future, worry less about it. “I know I don’t have that long to live,” says one elderly lady. “But it’s a rewarding a time.”
This idea is very absurd, as the ideal absurd man lives in the present and certainly does not fret over his future.
And, sitting there looking back over a life lived, older people realize they have less control over what happens… and gain some comfort from accepting what has happened. Acceptance, too, is a big part of the absurd. Just taking things as they come and making peace with the universe at it is.
Another idea: older people were more comfortable about who they were, their own strengths and weaknesses, and were more secure in their likes and dislikes… they were better at arranging their lives to suit them, rather than trying to meet some other, external, standard. True to the ideas of the absurd, happiness is within.
As we say, we only caught a little bit of this show, but we found some of the ideas fascinating and useful and pass them along for what they are worth. It also jibes with what we’ve speculated on before about age and the absurd.
Many of the things we think will make us happy, won’t. Happiness truly comes from the deep wells within – from acceptance, from living in the moment, from absurdity itself.