TED Conversations

Nicholas Lukowiak


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"What is happiness?"

Some say "ignorance is bliss" others will say "knowing is the ultimate enjoyment."

What do you say?

To me, happiness seems to be an acceptable cognitive bias. We find little joys in the world (through aesthetics) and never really question why they are joyful or beautiful or appealing to us. But why do we never question what we enjoy or what makes us happy?

There seems to be a battle in our minds of 'knowledge vs happiness'

We will sacrifice happiness to know more, and we will sacrifice what we know for happiness... What does this say about us as a thinking thing?

How does one 'know' 'happiness'?
Are you happy with your already knowledge? Why or why not?


One day I was at a Burger King and waiting online to order. The person behind me (about my age - 22) was speaking very loudly and said "I'm just happy, that's all there is to it. I am in a great mood, because I am happy." Or something like that, and I turned around and asked "Or do you think you are happy?" He responded "Wow, that was deep" and laughed and we smiled at one another and nodded and I turned back around to order. As I waited for my food I turned around to look at the person and he was no longer smiling, he was in a deep state of thought and even let the person behind him cut him in line to order ahead of him. He was no longer smiling but had no emotions on his face. I can only blame myself for changing his state of mind, but all I did was encourage him to question his own happiness... Which made him no longer happy...

Once we question (seek knowledge of) our happiness, can we be just as happy after that line of questioning? Can we always be happy while we question our own happiness?

Let's discuss!

* I know I ask a lot of questions, feel free to answer them or comment in a general response!
I've also asked in the past: "What is love?" "What is evil?" And soon "What is respect?"


Closing Statement from Nicholas Lukowiak

I didn't get to respond to a few individuals and if those individuals want - they are more than welcomes to e-mail me to continue. Or anyone else.

So, a closing statement on "what is happiness?" seems humorous! As it should never have a final say, but maybe a simple conclusion.

As my original summary suggested I do think happiness is (at times) a sort of cognitive bias, but that does not suggest I think of happiness in any 'negative' manner. In fact I believe it is a leading factor that guides our general thinking as a spirit, soul and/or mind - as a human being.

From the conversation you will see that majorly happiness was regarded as 1. momentary, 2. involves an idea of enlightenment, and 3. an interpersonal experience. We also talked about happiness involving A. choices, B. self actualization via individuation, and C. social altruism.

My final thoughts: We should all practice hard-hedonism as individuals, philosophers, freethinkers, etc. What I mean by 'hard-hedonism' is that we should lead our lives by pleasure, but to never let pleasure go unquestioned. I think of happiness as something similar to the practice of 'faith' and if happiness is worth having, it can stand-up to the scrutiny of a serious investigation. Find what is joyful, aesthetic, and pleasing in life, absorb it, store it, but do not be greedy and keep it to yourself! If there is anything worth calling 'beautiful' and 'breath-taking' it is worth being shared.

Ultimately, I don't think there is happiness without sharing happiness with others - hence this conversation!
So find pleasure, understand why it pleases you, then share it! Better yet, give it away! Good things should given away at no cost besides the smiles we take on credit!

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  • Apr 3 2014: Well the Beatles said "Happiness is a warm gun, shoot shoot, bang bang" I concur...
    Happiness is a smile that reaches your heart, I said that
    Happiness has early warning signs, just like an earthquake, they are vibrations which start hitting your body, wave after wave until you feel a warming sensation around your heart (that is because it begins to beat faster) and all your senses begin to crave more stimulation as the waves roll over and through your body. Your mind races to pinpoint the approach and your senses turn to face the light waves and get the full impact of the tsunami about to rock your world. Your heart seems to be beating out of control and your face is flush with excitement as you hear it rolling down a narrow corridor like a hundred miles of railroad train, and then it happens, first a sputter followed immediately with a gigantuous clap of thunder. Opps flatulation. What we talking about? Happiness? Oh yea... "Happiness is a warm (yes it is) gun" :)
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      Apr 3 2014: Unique description of happiness. Gidder done. Rich and interesting life, Mr. Henline.

      Life is like a blanket too short. You pull it up and your toes rebel, you yank it down and shivers meander about your shoulder; but cheerful folks manage to draw their knees up and pass a very comfortable night. ~Marion Howard

      Life is not like a box of chocolates. It's more like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today might burn your xyz tomorrow. ~Author Unknown

      • Apr 4 2014: Thank you Rodrigo I love Quote gardens, here are a couple of my own if you are interested:
        Best played on FULLSCREEN the bigger the better and Stereophonic sound, the scenery is awesome. Sit back and relax, I would love to take you for a ride... By the way, You and I did our graduate work at the same college, what a coincidence.
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      Apr 5 2014: lately i've been wondering when the beatles (or could we say the beetles?) hit it big, was there pride in the insect community?
      • Apr 5 2014: Well Greg there is a lot of proof that plants like some music, I guess they are picky. Some pets will watch TV for hours just like their owners. My guess is insects have such a short life span and so much work to do that they don't care as much about music. They sure scurry when they hear your hands clap so my guess is they do have hearing mechanisms. Their antennae appears to be their most sensitive appendage but who knows what information they are getting from them. We know so little. Touch is the obvious but they may be feeling vibrations like our inner ear of they may be testing chemical content like a tongue or other things we cannot even imagine. They touch each others antennae for some kind of communication like ants, what is that all about, who knows. It may be like a thumb drive and they are instantly transferring terabytes of information to one another, the fact is we have no clue after studying them for hundreds of years. Humans think they are smart but the fact is we are pretty much clueless and worse, we don't know it. We are slaves and refuse to believe that also. One thing we do know... they have survived a whole lot longer than we have or will. Maybe they are farming us, they sure eat us when we stop moving, don't they.... A beetle conversation might go like this: Hey George, pass the Dejon I like mustard on my human steak, it is still a little tough. Ringo, how about a little music to wash this kidney down, you known how music puts me in the mood for this delicious brain soup.
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          Apr 6 2014: one kind of strange thing i've heard, keith, is that if a nuclear bomb is dropped, cockroaches will be able to survive the radiation. Wonder what's different about their bodies? Well, it's good to know if we all kill each other in a massive nuclear war, at least some life-form will survive.
      • Apr 6 2014: For one thing they do not have lungs which is one of the reason you can step on them and they still get up and walk away. They are also regenerative, if they lose a body part they just grow another one.
        I am pretty sure the way "we" are going, we will disappear just like the dinosaurs did, unable to live in the toxic state we are creating on this planet, poisoning our own water, land, air and even space.
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          Apr 8 2014: well, do they have something like a heart, so if you step on them that would kill them?
        • Apr 30 2014: In addition, their cells do not divide very often--only when they shed their shells once they become adults. This gives their DNA repair mechanisms time to fix things after a hit of ionizing radiation.

          However, I don't see how "the way we are going" will lead to an asteroid or comet impact that will result in our extinction. That is how the dinosaurs went out.
      • Apr 8 2014: No heart or blood, they have that gooey stuff throughout there body and even if you chop off their head or smash it, the gooey stuff will clot and they will continue to live for several weeks. They can stay under water for almost an hour and some do not even need a male to reproduce. Some only need the male once for an entire lifetime. One female can produce many hundreds of eggs and some thousands in a lifetime. They are very hardy.
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          Apr 9 2014: well then maybe i'm doing a good thing by living on skim milk and cream, it will fill me up with that white gooey stuff inside?

          How is it that you know about roaches, Keith, or are you just surfing up the answers as I ask the ?'s.

          I find it funny to talk with people about cockroaches, it gives me an excuse to say the word "cock" without getting in trouble.
        • Apr 30 2014: Cockroaches have blood (lymph). They have hearts. They have multiple internal organs. All insects do. I've dissected larger roaches.
      • Apr 9 2014: Greg, I lived in Hawaii for 20 years where cockroaches get so big we put saddles on them and ride them into town for the cockroach races. Seriously everything thrives in the tropics and insects can be a major problem so I had no choice but to learn as much about them as possible just to survive. The best way to control them is not leave food out for them. Seal all food up in containers and keep your home clean. I worked for a farmer who controlled them with chemicals and even went to school and got my own commercial license from the State to buy and use restricted chemicals. I also spent time at the federal agriculture testing station on Kauai where our government produced Agent Orange used in Vietnam to kill everything it touches and many other chemicals. That is what convinced me to quit working on the farm. And yes I always Google for the latest answers and to make sure I get the facts as clear as possible, after suffering from sleep apnea for 30+ years my mind is not as clear as it used to be.
        • Apr 30 2014: And learn to love the local lizards. In south Texas it's sometimes considered lucky for a gecko to take up residence in your home.
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      Apr 8 2014: I enjoyed you examples of feeling 'happiness' and what it is to you.

      Thanks for the post!

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