This “friendly interest” is deceptively simple. Russell means a kind of warm, scientific curiosity, not raw vulnerability. He doesn’t advocate letting other people emotionally destroy you. This is the curiosity of a person comfortable in her own skin and prepared, therefore, to meet weirdness with interest and compassion up to the point where polite retreat is necessary, which it almost never really is.
…this position of “friendly interest ” is only possible for someone who is free of the demons of anxiety and envy, a freedom granted either by your constitution or earned through hard work.
…If you’re not blessed with ease, joy, and natural warmth, or if early life deprives you of them, the only thing you know how to do is to keep moving. Keep pushing. Keep trying within and at the fringes of what your limitations will allow until something gives and a little light breaks through. And whenever it does, to the best of your abilities, you seize upon that thing and run with it.
But the pursuit of happiness is mostly an uphill battle until you’re able to appreciate and find some measure of happiness in the things you already have. Your own positive qualities. The people who love you in spite of everything that’s wrong with you. The people you love, once you’re brave enough to stick your head far enough above ground to see beyond yourself. For me, only time has made that even remotely possible. And once you’re there, even a little bit, the pursuit of happiness becomes something less a pursuit in the sense of chasing something unattainable, and more a pursuit like gardening. You shuffle out, bleary-eyed, into the sunshine and look around, blinking. You notice something that needs watering. Something else that needs trimming. You take pleasure in the things that are flourishing. It’s a feedback loop…
Happiness, then, isn’t about feeling ecstatic all the time or floating, untroubled, on a calm, open sea. It’s not about finally reaching some point beyond disappointment and pain. However imperfect you still are, it’s about knowing you’ve got the power to make things better, putting that power to use, and being able to enjoy the results.