Barry Evans' essay "Happiness? Forget it" in the Sept. 12 Journal cites "evolutionary philosophy" as saying that "our genes don't give a rat's backside whether we're happy or not." True enough, if our world-view has taken up permanent residence somewhere in the region of the amygdala, a place where kill-or-be-killed, "run away, run away" bells are ringing regularly.
But our brains are more than just repositories of the results of countless well-practiced fight or flight reactions to the world in which we've lived for millennia. From brain stem (ancient) to prefrontal cortex (relatively recent), the human brain is a yet evolving and wondrous phenomenon of nature. Old processes ensuring survival are still very much at work within us, yes. However, our complex cortical tissue, built upon the many histories derived from simple reptilian awareness, is a living laboratory where we are offered vast and unknown potentialities of experience.
Certainly, there is no guarantee that our species will survive its foolish and primitive behaviors (wars, etc.). Deservedly, we may disappear into extinction.
Nonetheless, the very existence of the human brain is an astonishing improbability. That a three pound sack of chemical soup and neuronal sparking can conceive the very idea of "happiness" is itself a profound cause for much jubilation!
From moment to moment, within every individual human being, ever-deepening gladness and gratitude are ours for the cortical choosing. Only when individuals so choose, may the species at large, perhaps, discover that happiness, however fleeting, is actually real.
Jere Bob Bowden, Ferndale