Happiness is…

Happiness is understanding chemistry

A Facebook friend posted this meme last week. I confess for a trivial meme it has occupied an inordinate amount of my head space over the last few days.

What struck me most forcibly in the moments after I first saw it was the trajectory of my thoughts. Almost immediately I began ‘Yes, but….’ followed by an litany of sections of chemistry that I feel I should understand better.

For those who haven’t quite registered this – I teach organic chemistry at a very well respected university in South Africa.

My reaction was interesting to me: Whichever way you configure the statistics, few would argue I understand more chemistry than most people (unless you want to take a very small sample size of professional chemists!). But what was immediately foremost in my mind was the areas of understanding that I lack!

Now, the enneagram savvy may recognise a compulsed 5 in operation. (The 5 on the enneagram is the personality who gains a sense security through having knowledge). That may well be true.

But it alerted to me to a much bigger social problem – my compulsion to shore up my security through knowledge doesn’t appear to hurt anyone, but what if I found my security in financial resources? What if I found my security in being able to identify those who don’t belong? What if I found my security in owning firearms? What if I found my security in being found likeable by others? What if I found my security in being seen to be successful?

Suddenly my kneejerk response is far more sinister. I cannot claim a greater morality because my response is apparently less harmful. It is simply the way we are wired.

In unveiling my own compulsion I am both deeply grateful it is relatively neutral (at least as far as I can see), and I see those whose compulsions are necessarily potentially more destructive with far less judgement. It isn’t my path, but the reason it isn’t is not because I am fundamentally a better person, it is just because I am wired to be soothed by a different stimulus.


5 thoughts on “Happiness is…

  1. As a former high school chemistry teacher, I was immediately drawn the this outstanding post sent you by your friend. However, it reminds me a little of a course my daughter said the school taught the first-graders at the school in Thailand in which she taught. It was entitled, “The Joy of Chores,” but I don’t think anyone was fooled. And the girl in this post picture; is she laughing or hysterically crying? Perhaps crying because she doesn’t understand chemistry.

  2. Great to see the inward journey to a truth unfolding. Projection on another is to oneself possibly too. How can we be separate from the entire enneagram as well as all of humanity?

  3. I have also realised in recent months that I like to understand / know well. However, for me the dark side is that being told I have got my facts wrong is a very unsettling accusation (major shame trigger)… and my irritation at listening to others who are using partial or false facts is rather large (many politicians??) My growth is to hold these things more lightly.

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