Against Happiness: Or, Why I Am Not A Person

I am not a person. I am not a self. I remembered today how not so long ago I was told — based on my recent Facebook activity and statuses — that I seemed “more like my old self.”

The sentiment is kind, and I appreciate it; but unfortunately I am not a self. I am not a person. I am not an is or a was; I am a not a being.

The view that one is a self, a person, a being is an interesting one. That there one has an essence to be, a nature, or an ontological paradigm that one has to participate in so as to be correctly. This, I guess, is expressed from the robustly elaborate and metaphysical to the grossly inane. One such inane manner I have noticed recently is in the “100 happy days” hashtag. Could there be anything crasser and fundamentally inane?

What is frightening is the ontology of happiness worked out in such a notion. 100 happy days! That is the state of being in which one must persist. It is the presumed mode of and for living. You should be no other type of person, you must participate in any other kind of feeling — only happiness! All others are privations, following Augustine — they are only effective insofar as happiness is not. Terrifying! Woe, for we are no longer allowed unrestrained access to the full range of human emotions!

I saw this because I presume the sentiment about me was made with the above sort of view in mind. “Matthew seems happy now, and is thus more of himself.” Because, of course, happiness is the healthiest — and, as such, default — mode of being we all must and should strive for.

Forget that such a view is experientially false and is a presupposition and view that bends reality to itself — you must be happy! The person you are is to be happy, to be yourself you yourself must be happy, to be is to be happy! Forget that happiness is nothing without unhappiness, joy is nothing without sorrow, and so on. Forget that each is defined and understood in relation to something else. Forget that “happiness” would not be happiness if unhappiness were unreal or inexistent as a possible experience. You must be happy and nothing else!

In this way, I am myself if I am what I was. I can be correctly, once again, if I discover a version of myself that I had lost or misplaced, if I return to the eternal ground of being-happiness.

For many years I was not happy — ontologically speaking — and I am not who I was, nor will I be, for I am not a self. I am not myself. I am not a person. The experiences I have undergone, the manner in which they changed the possibilities for the kind of thing I could recognise myself as, mean I cannot be who I was. There is no I to return to, for I am constantly changed and changing. The “I” is not a stable condition, it is an experience experienced and defined in relation to a whole network of experiences. I am not something some delinquent experiences have misdirected from, I am the sum of my experiences, the person I am at any time is just that.

I am not who I was, and I will not be. I am not a person. I am not a self. I am a becoming-something, a becoming-someone, a becoming-person.

For many years I felt like I was unravelling because I thought I had to be a certain sort of person — happy, well-adjusted, a certain sort of religious — and in ways that altered me mentally and emotionally, I let that narrative of personhood go. There was no primal, mythic person to be. I opted to become what I was being, to be what I was becoming. For I am a synthesis of all that occurs to me, and as of now, I am new person, and I will be something new again — and if I am a past “self” such a self will not be the same. For I am not a self, I am a becoming-self.