As writers, we\u00a0are compelled to look beyond and ask ourselves the big questions in life. Set\u00a0in the Main Stage area of Pier 2\/3 at Circular Quay, Paul Dolan, Matt Haig and Amanda Lohrey spoke to\u00a0Australian social researcher and writer Rebecca Huntley about one of these big questions: what does it mean to be happy and to live a\u00a0meaningful life?\r\n\r\nThe Happiness Dilema... Image Credit: SWF\r\n\r\nMatt Haig, author of\u00a0Reasons to Stay Alive,\u00a0spoke about his experiences with depression and the impact such an illness has had upon his pursuit of joy and happiness.\u00a0Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science, brought examples of research and social experiments\u00a0into the discussion as a way of demonstrating how\u00a0purpose and pleasure - which he defines as the two essential components of happiness -\u00a0shapes our behaviour. Amanda Lohrey, author of the novel Short History of Richard Kline,\u00a0talked about\u00a0the baffling nature of happiness and our\u00a0equally baffling\u00a0search for meaning.\r\n\r\nHaving dealt with depression, Matt found\u00a0that he could appreciate happiness more than he had ever before because something like depression changes you and gives you a new perspective in life; something like depression is like the muddy waters from which the lotus flower then arises to become something beautiful and breathtaking. Happiness, Matt noted, is\u00a0the permanent state you attain after passing through those muddy waters: it is an act of change and transformation. Paul built upon this idea of permanence. He\u00a0pointed out that you could love ice-cream but if you ate too much of it, you would feel sick; similarly, you could love the sun but if you stood too long beneath it, you would get sunburnt. Here, Paul made an important assertion, which is that pleasure must be balanced with purpose in order to achieve an enduring happiness.\r\n\r\nBut Amanda admitted that happiness is "baffling" and that to this day, she fails to comprehend what this concept encompasses. She provided a humorous anecdote: "My neighbour... Everyday he pulls apart his lawnmower and then puts it back together, yet he is happier than me." It is a paradox: if happiness is something so\u00a0simple as deconstructing and constructing your lawnmover, why do we spend our whole lives trying to find it? Amanda suggested that perhaps happiness is a ritual and that we as human beings constantly invent and reinvent rituals to make ourselves happy. Indeed, as Paul added, happiness is when we forget that we are happy; it is listening to your favourite music without consciously paying attention the music.\r\n\r\nAmanda provided further\u00a0insight into the concept of "profound boredom" and how we as human beings attempt to escape that boredom through distractions. For instance, in one fascinating experiment as\u00a0outlined by Paul,\u00a0a group of people were shocked with a painful shock ball that they did not like at all, yet when placed in a room with that same ball for hours on end, a surprising revelation was revealed:\u00a0those people began to shock\u00a0themselves despite the pain. Perhaps, Paul went on to suggest, it is not just about happiness; it is also about our simple and very human desire to feel something in moments of complete stagnation.\r\n\r\nUltimately, The Happiness Dilemma was both highly entertaining and tremendously thought-provoking. Featuring a\u00a0friendly and engaging\u00a0atmosphere, a panel of inspiring and down-to-earth individuals,\u00a0and\u00a0a great deal of\u00a0laughter\u00a0both on stage and off, this was indeed a happiness-inducing event, one definitely worth\u00a0the time and attendance.