Matthew Inman on how to be perfectly unhappy

Happiness is an overrated thing. People spend their entire lives searching for the so called oasis of perfect happiness. Some by trotting around the globe, some by soul-searching in all the void spaces. As if their entire life depends on this word called Happiness. But, the main problem behind all this is, nobody tells us it’s perfectly fine to be unhappy. It’s not a disease, and it will not make our lives meaningless.‘How to be perfectly unhappy’ by Matthew Inman, is the graphic book, everyone needs to read in order to understand life and one’s sense of happiness.

Matthew Inman
Book: How to be perfectly unhappy by Matthew Inman

About the author

Matthew Boyd Inman is an American cartoonist. He started The Oatmeal, a webcomic and humour website in 2009. By 2010, The Oatmeal got an average of 4.6 million unique visitors. After the success of his website, The Oatmeal has also made transition to a series of books, featuring content from the website as well as previously unpublished material. The comics cover an eclectic range of topics from zombies, cats, to internet and English Grammar, with eye catching titles such as- ‘How to tell if your cat is plotting to kill you’, ‘Why grizzly bear should wear underpants’. The Oatmeal was awarded the Eisner Award(2014) for best webcomic.

Inman also works for social causes. In 2012, he launched a fundraising campaign in association with The Oatmeal, to raise $1.7 million for the non-profit organization- Tesla Science Centre at Wardenclyffe, that also received donations from Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla Motors. In 2016, Inman received the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award from the San Diego Comic-Con for his work. Matthew, lives in Seattle, Washington with his two dogs Rambo and Beatrix.

This book is of interest for

  • Comic book lovers.
  • People looking for light, funny book with a strong message.

Premise of the book

How to be perfectly unhappy by Matthew Inman, is a short comic book, one can read in 10-15 minutes. But it’s not about the amount of time you give to a book, it’s how much you learn from a book that matters. And trust me, you won’t be disappointed from this gem of a book.

Matthew Inman, does a lot of research before picking any topic that interests him. This book was inspired by an essay from Augusten Burroughs titled- How to Live Unhappily Ever After, that was published in The Wall Street Journal.

In this book, Inman talks about how people judge him, when he says he is not a happy person. For people, happiness is a monochromatic word i.e. you are either blissfully happy or miserably unhappy. This binary way of measuring happiness, is the root cause of all the problems. They completely ignore the spectrum of ephemeral feelings one experiences such as joy, bliss, satisfaction. For them, happiness is the one and only permanent thing. When you are happy that means you have completed all the prequisites and now you can sit at the top of the pile and bask in the glory.

But, if you counter, they say, it’s about the journey. Now this is not right either. When people talk about “the journey”, it’s always assumed to be a joyous ride with a well defined destination. According to them, if you don’t have a particular goal/destination in mind, you are nothing but a homeless wanderer. The happiness has an end point, and it’s all about the journey to that end. But is it so?

In order to explain this further, Inman gives the example of Pluto, that lost its status of planet years back, because it didn’t fit well in the definition of planet, because of its size and inability to clear its neighbourhood. How our smart questions, totally downgraded Pluto.

“Pluto is no longer a planet because our definition of planet wasn’t very good.

I am not “happy” because our definition of happy isn’t very good.”

Happiness is a monochromatic word, used to describe the plethora of rich, painful emotions one goes through, while doing something meaningful. For example when you read long, complicated books, because you want to learn and explore things, when you run, because you want to, even if it burns your skin, when you work for twelve hours because you like to. So in the process of doing all these things, people are not always happy. And if you measure this from the happiness scale, they are generally not happy. But does it stop you?

No, because you find it compelling and meaningful. You work and explore because you want to learn things, make things and face new challenges. And it doesn’t mean, you will be happy in the process of doing all those things. You will be tired, lost, perplexed. But these things don’t matter because you will be interested, fascinated and busy. And it’s completely fine!

Matthew Inman

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