Only one character in Huxley’s novel, the Savage, is recognisably human and he claims the right to be unhappy. At the end of Brave New World the rebel, John, otherwise another Savage, confronts the Controller. ‘Universal happiness’, the Controller admits, ‘has been achieved by shifting the emphasis away from truth and beauty, and towards comfort. Art and science have become impossible because they require challenge, skill and frustration. Happiness has got to be paid for somehow and a guarantee of comfort requires losing other experiences that are part of being human.’
Says the Savage, ‘I don’t want comfort, I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin.’ ‘In fact’, said the Controller, you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.’ Continues the Controller, ‘Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent, the right to have syphilis and cancer, the right to have too little to eat, the right to be lousy, the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow, the right to catch typhoid, the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.’
There was a long silence. ‘I claim them all,’ said the Savage at last.
Happy people smell differently to unhappy people. A recent study did an experiment where psychologists took people and showed them funny films that would cheer them up, or showed them horror films that would scare them, and took swabs, gauze swabs, of their armpits while they were watching these films. They then gave these gauze swabs to a completely independent group of people a week later, and asked them to smell them, and this independent group of people could reliably identify the happy people as opposed to the scared people.
[There’s] another interesting study done recently by a psychologist. They engineer a situation where people have to go and make some photocopies from a photocopying machine. Unbeknownst to these people, they don’t know the experimenter has engineered it, but they will discover a 10-cent dime on the photocopying machine, an ‘unexpected’ discovery. So one group find the 10-cent dime, the other group who are photocopying don’t find anything. Then they’re interviewed shortly afterwards about how happy they are. But the happiness question doesn’t ask them how happy you are right now, it asks them ‘Tell us how you evaluate how happy your whole life has been.’ In other words, they ask people to evaluate happiness over their whole lifetime.
The amazing result is the discovery of a 10-cent dime piece on a photocopying machine statistically significantly raises your assessment of how happy your whole life has been.