“You’re very unhappy for a long period of time. And you don’t experience joy. At the end you experience relief, if you’re lucky.” — producer and former Warner Bros. honcho John Calley speaking two nights ago about the life of a typical Hollywood studio executive.

I’m constantly amazed at the frequency with which I hear people lament the fact that their lives aren’t (or haven’t been) happy enough. As if that “happiness” was some kind of central tenet of the quality of a life. There is certainly contentment and satisfaction, but “happiness,” as most people define it, is a periodic mood thing that tends to happen of its own volition, and when it does 90% of those experiencing it don’t realize it’s there — only years or decades later.

The only thing that matters is whether a man or woman has fulfilled the promise and potential of his/her genetic inheritance, and responded creatively and constructively to the opportunities and obstacles that have been put before them. If you’ve done this then you’ll probably feel generally happy most of the time and…whatever, feel little spurts or surges of joy from time to time. And if you’re really lucky you’ll feel a kind of ecstasy from time to time from doing the most routine or mundane things. But anyone who abandons their duty or calling in order to feel happier is a wastrel.