The Invisible Seal of Joy

I had a dream the other night. In the dream I was able to see something no one else could see. In front of everyone who was naturally happy, there appeared a strip of gold leaf, floating in front of their face. I desperately wanted to know how they did it – how they were happy.

Research has found that around 50% of a person’s happiness comes from genetics. Maybe the vision of the gold leaf I saw was an indicator of those with high genetic happiness. What if everyone could see some sort of seal of happiness on everyone else? How would life be different? Those with the seal would probably be revered. Those with the seal would probably also only reproduce with others who had the seal, producing babies genetically disposed toward high levels of happiness.

As an aside, in one of the Harvard articles on happiness I’ve been reading, they mention going back to find what made you happy in your childhood. I’ve been having that thought lately too, as I’ve reconnected with a few things that I loved as a kid and have largely ignored as an adult. I used to love animation as a kid. Not just watching cartoons, but I was intrigued by the process behind it. I wanted to be an animator. I’ve recently started watching some animators on YouTube, and it’s brought back that childhood wonder and joy I used to feel.

I’m going to start keeping a worksheet on things from my childhood that I want to revisit as an adult. It’s a complicated thing – I know a lot of the movies, TV shows, games I used to love simply don’t hold up. And I don’t want to be a man-child who’s obsessed with pop culture from their childhood. Overindulgence in nostalgia can be dangerous. How does one honor their past interests without getting stuck in them? What does it mean to grow and evolve in our hobbies and interests? I want to figure out the essence of what brought me to these things. What about it did I enjoy, and can I update that for my life now?

A gif of a game from the PICO-8 fantasy console.

For instance, yesterday I bought the PICO-8 console. If you’re not familiar, it’s a “fantasy” game console that exists as only an emulator, not actual hardware. It’s modeled after an 80s game console. There’s a very active game community for it, and new games are being released all the time. This really scratched that same itch of gaming on the NES when I was little, but in an updated form. The games are very retro, but many have modern concepts. They tend to be more “out there” then mainstream games since they’re developed by either a single person or a very small team. I don’t game much these days, but I very much have been enjoying the PICO-8 and I’ll probably stick with it as my main source of gaming.