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Deriving Happiness

This SMBC is amazing.

It is an interesting way of looking at life and the trade-off of taking on responsibilities in your life.

Especially since the standard recipe for happiness seems to be currently:

  • Embrace your sexuality during your 20s
  • In your 30s, panic, settle down with whomever, buy a house and have some kids.

Both seem like optimizations to the extreme, rephrased:

  • "Put off a permanent relationship for as long as you can"
  • "Pile on a number of responsibilites as fast as you can"

I don't think either is a successful receipe for happiness either.

Not that they lack value, mind you.

Discovering who you are, who you like and not living life in a state of conflict over your true sexuality is a wonderful and liberating message of our generation.

But it is still in many ways a backlash against the more repressed and conservative sexual ideas of the last century which largely included demonizing non-standard sexual orientations and identity.

That said, the core idea, of Love, and of finding another person who you can begin the delicate dance of gaining mutual trust and respect with, that is a valuable thing with or without the gendered and religious trappings that is often heaped upon it.

Then the latter, the societal prescription balm of happiness: wedding, home, children. It carries with it an implicit promise of fufillment and joy.

But it is not a recipe for joy necessarily, it is instructions for security. Relationship security, the security of a permanent residence, the prospect of sowing children to care for you later.

Not that these things cause you unhappiness, but they carry with them responsibilities that complicate your life and limit your actions.

Sharing your life with someone requires many compromises, often requiring profound alterations to your actions and ways of looking at things.

Homes carry with them all manner of time draining responsibilities and costs.

Children, modern parenting requires nothing less than a 110% time commitment (although to be fair, I have no idea who specifically is prescribing this manner of parenting)

It isn't the responsibilities themselves, it is the eventual exhaustion of free time and the subsequent dimming of casual exertion of free will.

Like playing chess through a continuous string of "check" force moves, certainly you have a little lee-way in your choice of response, but for the most part external actions are forcing your hand into continual action.

However, I don't think the perscription in happiness lies with infinite free time. These responsibilites that you take on also imbue your life with a mass of meaning, in a way that deciding where to eat out and what movie to see lacked.

Like most things, the truth seems to suggest a moderation of both.

Another famous equation is Force = Mass * Acceleration. In this case Mass seems equivalent to the responsibilities you have donned through your life choices. Acceleration is your ability to still move about freely under the load you have taken on.

A mass-less particle moving at near infinite speed and a moon-sized mass incapable of movement both have the same resultant force.

Whereas a mile wide asteroid traveling at Mach 30 can devastate worlds orders of magnitude larger than itself. Which, given the terrorism of late seems like an entirely imperfect metaphor for happiness...


I was going through some old files, and found the below text, an actual resignation letter I wrote and submitted about 10 years ago.

I have left it untouched, except for nulling out some names, which was hard to do, because I really kinda wanted to edit out a few parts where I'm just clearly a jackass.


Dear MXXX, AXXX and I guess AXXXX, cuz she's the HR person... or should that be LXXXX. Hi LXXXX! You were really nice and it was a pleasure meeting you!

I have considered the following decision for many days, losing sleep, and waffling more than... let's say Belgium, because of that one type of waffle. Guh, lame start, forget all that. I call a redo.

This decision was really really hard for me. And, seeing as I'm super smart, that means the resulting circumstances were all the more equally balanced than if, say, just a normal person said a decision was hard to make.

Seriously, I do logic problems for fun, and this decision was like completing a Cross Sum #25, which, are like, way in the back of the book.

I have enjoyed my employment here a great deal, and appreciate the responsibilities and flexibility in which I have been entrusted. At other jobs, when I asked to do really crazy stuff, that no one had ever done before, they usually said "no", and maybe "you crazy!" in a funny voice. You would have thought that that would have stopped me from asking, but, lemme tell you, apparently it didn't, because, as I said before, I kept doing it.

Working as a team with AXXX was also one of the most satisfying things in my professional career to date, even beating out me getting to touch a Sun Enterprise 6500. I have the utmost respect for him, and will probably judge all my other co-workers to a completely unfair standard of brilliance and unrelenting competence forever more.

It was also a pleasure working with everyone else, such a collection of straight-up good guys and gals is a frightening statistical anomaly which we very well might find cited some day in an Tennessee Biology Book as supporting evidence for "Intelligent Design". Except for MXXXXX that is, but then no statistical anomaly is perfect.

The last three paragraphs were very subtle foreshadowing to the next one. If it's raining, or overcast, or even better, thundering ominously, then there may also be "pathetic fallacy" present. That's more foreshadowing right there. I think this whole paragraph here is called "a literary aside". I'm not sure though, I sorta coasted through college avoiding English classes.

So please consider this long-winded, and regrettably unprofessional letter of notice as my two weeks notice (or three I guess if I signed something that said I'd give three).

And as for the tone of this letter, please don't take it as an sort of flippancy or disrespect on my part. Quite the opposite, the fact I am going to such great lengths to employ humor is simply to help me attempt to disarm the great emotional weight this decision has for me.

And frankly, if you'd received a short, stuffy "Please consider this my two weeks notice", I believe that would simply be a far more disrespectful message in my mind. Three years is a long time, and I ain't afraid to bring such a parting down to a more intimate level.

Oh, I suppose I should mention the date, some website said so. It's Monday February 21st 2005, probably around 9 or 10 am CST. And, while I'm at it, in MySQL compatible format: "2005-02-21 10:00". And this one's for the many servers I leave behind, I shall think of you often. 1109001600.

Analog Signed,