Friday, December 26, 2008

Republicans, Democrats, Happiness, and Fulfillment

My friend, Sammy, passed along this editorial by Joel Stein on why Republicans blindly love things and Democrats have more errant tastes. The editorial, partially meant for comedic purposes, unfortunately pigeonholes all Republicans - well, Republican talk show hosts, really. I, however, found parts of his conclusion provocative. Money quote (emphasis mine):
... I still think conservatives love America for the same tribalistic reasons people love whatever groups they belong to. These are the people who are sure Christianity is the only right religion, that America is the best country, that the Republicans have the only good candidates, that gays have cooties.

I wish I felt such certainty. Sure, it makes life less interesting and nuanced, and absolute conviction can lead to dangerous extremism, but I suspect it makes people happier. I'll never experience the joy of Hannity-level patriotism. I'm the type who always wonders if some other idea or place or system is better and I'm missing out. ...
A couple of days ago, I argued that absolute certainty increases the likelihood of violence, but it is the argument that certainty correlates with happiness that intrigues me here. Without a study or a happiness-o-meter, this smells of "grass is greener on the other side" speculation. While Stein may be right, I think that there can be profound fulfillment by living into the mysteries of life, in recognizing the complexities and ambiguities of both Truth and the world around us. That fulfillment might not necessarily manifest itself as immediate emotional happiness but, possibly, as a deeper sense of holism.

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