I just noticed, via Yahoo’s lovely new RSS feeds (news.yahoo.com/rss), the results of a
study (story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20030827/ap_on_he_me/zoloft_children_5)
showing that Zoloft (www.zoloft.com)
helps to reduce depression in children.

According to the study, Zoloft—a mind altering
drug—outperformed dummy pills by a whopping 10% (yes, that was a
subtle hint of sarcasm). This is significant, because in previous
experiments with other drugs, anti-depressants proved to be no more
effective in treating children than dummy pills.

For various reasons, I have had no choice over the past decade but to
become a believer in the power of chemically driven mental disorders. So, I
can’t with a clear conscience try to debunk Zoloft or any other
anti-depressant as being a valueless fraud. I don’t, however, feel
very comfortable with using them on children.

I’d like to see a study on the effects of teaching depressed children
about how to take control of their emotions and achieve happiness through
good old fashioned brainpower. Of course, I say this knowing it isn’t
going to happen, because most of us adults know less about this topic than
children.

Sad, isn’t it? The average american man can describe, in intimate
detail, the forces behind success in football, or what makes a really
kickass
home theater system. But, most of us don’t spend any time or
energy on the true pursuit of personal satisfaction and happiness.
It’s probably because it doesn’t occur to us that real
happiness 1) is attainable, 2) is not truly achievable via our jobs or
possessions, 3) is something you actually have to make an effort for, and
4) improves with practice. We believe that the next promotion or that new
house or the fancy new car or success in a sport will make us happy. But,
what’s really happening is we’re treating the symptoms and
allowing ourselves to travel through life with virtually no control over
our emotions.

There are prescriptive methods that, when followed, can greatly increase
one’s chances of living a happy and healthy life. I haven’t
done any scientific experiments on children, so you’ll have to trust
me on this. But, let’s start with a simple one. Don’t do crack
cocaine. Don’t even try it. That probably sounds stupdily obvious,
doesn’t it. Well, that’s OK. I’m trying to demonstrate a
point:

If you’re not currently a crack abuser, you probably know intuitively
that getting addicted to crack will not increase your happiness. It might
increase your pleasure while you’re doing it (I hear it’s one
of the best sensual feelings available on the planet). But, those of us
with even the most basic cognitive ability seem to understand that crack is
not a great stop on the road to happiness.

So, we probably agree that there is at least one basic rule to follow if
you’re interested in being a happier person. Certainly not a complete
list, and this one’s too specific to be very useful. But, I bet we
can "refactor" it and abstract it up a few layers into a more
general (but still singular and incomplete) rule for happiness.

The crack scenario could be generalized as follows: "Don’t
follow potentially destructive urges simply because they bring temporary
pleasure." And, "Beware of things that feel addictively good in
the short term—they might be bad for your happiness in the long
term." Pleasure != Happiness.

OK, so this is just as obvious. I’m guessing that most of the best
rules will be. But, as with most things that are worth learning, the magic
isn’t in the knowledge alone, but in how you put it into practice.
This simple pleasure-rule is easy to understand, but hard to follow in
every waking moment. It takes a lot of hard mental work and practice. For
example, I can tell you now that pressing your left middle finger down when
your hands are in position on a saxophone will produce the note
"c", but that doesn’t mean you can now pick up a horn and
make a nice sounding

  1. If you don’t already play, you probably won’t be able to make a

noise. The best things in life take hard work and practice. So, it stands
to reason that the absolute best thing in life (the Goal, no?) would take
a lot of practice.

As children, our minds—and even brains—are malleable, and we
learn very quickly. And, the things that we learn in childhood stay with us
throughout our lives. I’m afraid that if we teach children that they
need drugs to stay happy and that they can let their thoughts be their
masters instead of the other way around, it’s going to have a
significantly negative impact on society. A nation of children raised in
this evironment will create a new nation of children raised by parents who
were raised this way, and so on and so on. How might this change the course
of our evolution?