Posts Tagged ‘Happiness’

Happiness on Vimeo

March 17, 2018

I came across this while looking for something else.

Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die

August 6, 2017

The idea that most people have of the Epicurean teaching is, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”   The idea most people have of what an Epicurean is like, is the Petronius character in Quo Vadis

Petronius lives for pleasure.  He eats the finest delicacies, sips the finest wines, sniffs the most fragrant perfumes, surrounds himself with beautiful flowers and works of art, listens to beautiful music and has sex with beautiful slave women.

For fun, Petronius pretends to flatter the Emperor Nero while really ridiculing him.   When Nero catches on, he calmly commits suicide, with style.

Click to enlarge

It’s true that the philosopher Epicurus taught that pleasure is the highest good.   But he said real pleasure comes from appreciating whatever it is you have.   His idea was, “Eat plain bread and vegetables, drink plain water and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”

His idea was to make yourself bulletproof against unhappiness by not wanting things you can’t have and by not wanting things that really wouldn’t make you happy anyway.

There are three kinds of desires, he taught: (1) natural and necessary desires, such as food, shelter, etc.; (2) natural but unnecessary desires, such as for rich food, and (3) vain desires, such as for power, wealth or fame.

Courage, justice and moderation, the basic Greek virtues, are not valuable in themselves, according to Epicurus, but because they are necessary to happiness.   Justice consists of neither harming other people nor allowing them to harm you.   The best life is quiet and obscure.

Our present-day economy is based on precisely the kind of thinking that Epicurus wants to rescue us from.   American consumers’ desire for possessions, pleasure and status keeps the economy going, but doesn’t make us happy.   We can learn from Epicurus.


Some sayings of Epicurus

August 6, 2017

The blessed and important nature knows no trouble nor causes trouble to any other, so that it is never constrained by anger or favor. For all such things exist only in the mind.

Death is nothing to us: for that which is dissolved is without sensation; and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us.


It is not possible to live pleasantly without living prudently and honorably and justly, nor again to live a life of prudence, honor and justice without living pleasantly.  And the man who does not possess the pleasant life, is not living prudently and honorably and justify, and the man who does not possess the virtuous life cannot possibly live pleasantly.

No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the means which produce some pleasures bring with them disturbances many times greater than the pleasure.

Infinite time contains no greater pleasure than limited time, if one measures by reason the limits of pleasure.

He who has learned the limits of life knows that, that which removes the pain of want and makes the whole of life complete, is easy to obtain, so that there is no need for actions that involve competition.


Ian Welsh on happiness

February 12, 2017

Blogger Ian Welsh says the first step to being happy is to stop making yourself unhappy.

I live in a single room, in a downscale neighborhood.  I sleep on some pads on the floor.  I am in debt, and I have a couple of serious health problems.

Yukon raven by gavatronI am also happy most of the time.

I’ll be sitting in my garret and thinking, “God, life is amazing.  This is wonderful.”

And I’ll laugh and mock myself, “What’s good about this?  You’re poor, sick, overweight, and broke.”  All that is true, but I’m happy (and my health is improving, no worries, I don’t expect to die soon, though who knows).

So I’m going to give some unsolicited advice on how to be happy even though your life sucks, because, well, I’m pretty good at it.

The first step is to not be unhappy.

(Insert head smacking motion from readers.)

Seriously, though, start there. Or, as I like to say: “The whole of the path is not giving a fuck.”

Run out of fucks.  Do not restock.  Life will seem a lot better.

Please don’t mistake Welsh’s philosophy for indifference to the world or other people.   He is engaged with the world through his excellent political blog.   He is concerned about world events.  He just doesn’t let world events make him miserable.


Albert Camus on happiness and love

February 14, 2016


Source: Albert Camus on Happiness and Love Illustrated by Wendy McNaughton on Brain Pickings

Happiness and maturity: scarcer than you think

January 17, 2016

Andre Malraux once asked a Catholic priest what he had learned about people in 50 years of listening to confessions.  The priest replied that (1) people are much more unhappy than you would expect and (2) there is no such thing as an adult.

I thought about this when I read a blog post entitled How Bad Are Things? by a psychiatrist named Scott Alexander.   However bad things are, it’s highly unlikely you’re the only one (of whatever it is).

Two resolutions I made early in life

September 13, 2015

I resolved never to make make myself unhappy about things that don’t really matter.

I resolved never to base my sense of self-esteem on anything somebody else had the power to take away from me.

‘You need to think about death five minutes a day’

April 25, 2015

festival1A writer named Eric Weiner visited the small Himalayan nation of Bhutan, and was suddenly overcome by shortness of breath, dizziness and numbness in the hands and feet.  Fearing a heart attack or worse, he visited a physician name Dr. Karma Ura, who told him he suffered a panic attack.

“You need to think about death for five minutes every day,” Ura replied. “It will cure you.”

“How?” I said, dumbfounded.

“It is this thing, this fear of death, this fear of dying before we have accomplished what we want or seen our children grow. This is what is troubling you.”

“But why would I want to think about something so depressing?”

“Rich people in the West, they have not touched dead bodies, fresh wounds, rotten things. This is a problem. This is the human condition. We have to be ready for the moment we cease to exist.”

via BBC


Freedom, happiness and love

March 29, 2015


The human mind: Links & comments 2/16/15

February 16, 2015

education-in-liberal-artsHow to Convince Someone They’ve Committed a Crime by Nathan Collins for Pacific Standard.

Brainwashing, which is my worst nightmare, may in fact be possible.  Evidently people can be made not only to confess to crimes they haven’t committed, but to come to falsely believe they actually have committed them.

Believing that life is fair might make you a terrible person by Oliver Burkeman for The Guardian.

People like to believe that the arc of the universe bends toward justice.  Faced with injustice they can’t do anything about, people tend to blame the victim.

Psychology: the man who studies everyday evil by David Robson for the BBC.

An experimental psychologist has confirmed that there are people who’ll pay a price just for the pleasure of inflicting pain on others.

The plight of the bitter nerd: Why so many awkward, shy guys end up hating feminism by Arthur Chu for Salon.  [Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist]

It’s natural, but wrong, to blame other people for your internal problems.  That’s a different thing from the external threats faced by many women from misogynists.

Could You Go 40 Days Without Being Mean? by Sarah Miller for New York magazine.

The author experimented with being soft-spoken for 40 days and found, to her surprise, that it made her happier.

Race, IQ and Wealth by Ron Unz for the Unz Review.

The scientific evidence indicates that differences in IQ between nations and ethnic groups have much to do with affluence and development, and very little to do with heredity.

Brains Make Decisions the Way Turing Cracked Codes by Devin Powell for Smithsonian magazine.

Interesting and important work is being done on how the brain works, but this is not a solution to the mystery of consciousness.

Why can’t the world’s greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness?  by Oliver Burkeman for The Guardian.

I can’t even imagine what a solution to the mystery of consciousness would consist of.

The happiest cities in the USA are in Louisiana

November 9, 2014

happiest cities list

happiest cities

I like lists and maps like these, although I take them as informed guesses rather than certain facts.  I know that people sometimes say they’re satisfied with their lives when they’re not, and vice versa, and I’d be interested to know what adjustments were made for income and demographics.

Still, the list and map are interesting.  Louisiana is a state with above-average poverty, violent crime and corruption, yet a survey finds that the five happiest cities in the USA are in that state.  Among the top 10 happy cities, six are in Louisiana, three are in other Southern states and only one is an affluent Northern city.

I don’t find this implausible.  I think Southerners on average, both white and black, have stronger family ties, a greater capacity for enjoying the simple things of life and an ability not to sweat the small stuff.

It’s interesting that New York City is the unhappiest city in the USA.   New York City has the greatest concentration of wealth of any U.S. city, but also a great gap between rich and poor.  I’d guess that New York City has one of the greatest concentrations of unsuccessful ambitious people among U.S. cities, and this certainly makes for unhappiness.

The other nine of the 10 unhappiest cities are declining industrial cities in the Midwest or Middle Atlantic.  Having good things and losing them generally makes people more unhappy than if they never had the good things in the first place.  However, the authors of the study say these places seem to have been unhappy before they went into decline.

My home city of Rochester, N.Y., is among the moderately unhappy cities, according to this map.  I learn from the interactive version in the Washington Post that we rank 248th in happiness among 318 cities studied.  I myself am highly satisfied with my life and so, for the most part, are my friends.

But then the majority of my friends are college-educated white people like me.  The Rochester area has a wide disparity between rich and poor, so my experience may not be representative.

One thing about Rochester is that it is cloudy.  We have many overcast days and a lot of rain and snow.  This is said to cause something called “seasonal affective disorder”.  I notice that most of the happy blue cities are in the sunny South or Southwest or the scenic Rockies.

The San Francisco and Silicon Valley areas have great concentrations of unhappiness, yet people want to move there.  Money isn’t everything, but maybe happiness isn’t everything either.


The appeal of unhappy cities by Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post.

Stephen Fry on the sin of self-pity

November 2, 2014

2012-10-23-fryVia Zen Pencils.

Of course there is an all-important difference between self-pity and rage against injustice.

The first weakens, the second strengthens.

A meaningless life

March 30, 2014

Double click to enlarge.


The comparative happiness of nations

September 18, 2013


The Washington Post last week published another of its country comparison maps, this one of the comparative happiness of nations, based on Gallup polls.  Like the others, it is fascinating but should be taken as an indicator rather than an exact measurement.

As I would have expected, people in nations with a high degree of material prosperity were on average happier than people in poor countries, and people in nations suffering invasion or civil war were less happy than people in nations blessed by internal peace.

These considerations appear to override religion.  The promise of Buddhism, for example, is that it offers a way to overcome unhappiness, yet Cambodia and war-torn Sri Lanka are among the unhappiness of nations, while peaceful Thailand is one of the happiest.

But there are interesting exceptions.  Latin American nations seem happier than their political and economic situations would lead me to expect.  Mexicans are in the same category as Americans and Canadians, while Brazilians and war-torn Colombians are on average as happy as Britons, French and Germans.

Click on A fascinating map of the world’s happiest and least happy countries for the full article by Caitlin Dewey for the Washington Post.


Adam Smith on financial incentives

August 17, 2012

What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt and has a clear conscience?

This quote is from Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) is the founder of the modern discipline of economics.  Being an old retired guy with time on his hands, I once sat down and read The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments the whole way through.  As with most great classics, I found them different from how they had been described.

Although a strong advocate of the idea of a free market, Adam Smith was not a defender of corporations or the wealthy, nor was he an opponent of public works or a social safety net for the poor.  In his day, most corporations were government-sponsored monopolies that were chartered for a specific purpose.  Smith saw free enterprise and economic competition as a way to limit profit to a reasonable amount and force businesses to respond to what the public wanted.

I do not know what Adam Smith would think of the economic controversies of today, because our government, economy and society are so different from his.  But he most certainly was not a social Darwinist who looked on economic competition as a way of weeding out the unfit, nor did he think of maximizing wealth as a worthy goal.  Rather he saw the free market as an alternative to economic privilege and as a way strangers could establish relationships to their mutual benefit.

Click on Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy for a blog devoted to reinterpreting Adam Smith’s thought.

Click on Adam Smith’s Theory of Happiness for thoughts about Smith’s moral philosophy.

Adam Smith on happiness

August 12, 2012

What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt and has a clear conscience?

This quotation is from Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) is the founder of the modern discipline of economics.  He was a strong advocate of free enterprise and business competition, but he was not a friend of corporations, which in his time were almost all government-sponsored monopolies, nor did he oppose public works or a social safety net for the poor.

Being an old, retired guy with time on his hands, I read Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments  several years ago.  As with most great classics, I found it different from what I had been told about it.   Adam Smith was not a social Darwinist, who believed in competition as a way of weeding out the unfit.   Rather he saw free enterprise as a way people could exchange things to their mutual benefit without interference of government on behalf of vested interests.

I hesitate to say how Adam Smith would judge current economic controversies, since today’s issues are so different from those of his time.  I don’t claim his ideas are the same as the ideas of self-described liberals such as myself, but I don’t think he aligns with self-described conservatives either.  He most certainly did not believe in maximizing wealth as a worthy purpose in life.

Click on Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy for a blog devoted to setting the record straight on Adam Smith.

Click on Adam Smith’s Theory of Happiness for more about Smith’s moral philosophy.

Achieve True Happiness? | Ask Old Jules

August 5, 2012

Old Jules, how do we achieve true happiness? Is it through wealth and materialistic things or through inner self and wisdom?

  1. Old Jules

    Examine yourself to allow you to decide what facets of yourself you don’t admire, respect and love.

  2. Change those traits to something you’d admire, respect and love in another person.
  3. Examine your expectations for your life and the environment around you, considering what facets of it all you find as triggers for angst, resentment, envy, agony and ire.
  4. Lower your expectations and forgive the world around you and yourself for not being more to your liking.  Do it daily, hourly, constantly.
  5. Engage in gratitude affirmations when you awaken each morning and before you sleep at night until you are grateful for everything that’s happened in your life, everything happening now, and projecting forward to everything that will happen until you end this lifetime.

Old Jules is the handle of a blogger who lives in the Texas hill country.  Click on Ask Old Jules and So Far From Heaven for his web logs.

Seven ways to cheer yourself up

July 29, 2012
  1. Think about something you love.  Imagine how you would feel if you lost it. Now be happy you have it.  Research shows savoring has powerful affects on well-being.
  2. Take a nap.  Studies show we can process negative thoughts just fine when we’re exhausted — but not the happy ones.
  3. Smile.  Happy or not, just smile.  Studies show it can trick your mind into thinking you feel good.  And it has plenty of other benefits.
  4. Hug someone.  Corny?  Maybe.  But it works.
  5. Share the best event of your day with your romantic partner and have them do the same.
  6. Work on a hard problem that makes you think.  Studies show if your brain is dedicated to a mental chore, it can’t bother you as much with distressing emotions.
  7. Send someone a thank you email.  Research shows gratitude is one of the most powerful keys to happiness.

I got this off the Barking up the wrong tree web log.

Hat tip to The Dish.

A philosopher on love

February 14, 2012

To love someone is to find happiness in their happiness.  This is what is common to all forms of love  — of parents for their children, of a man for his wife, or of a saint for all mankind. …

To be loved is to have someone find happiness in your happiness.  To love someone who loves you is one of the most glorious things that can happen, for happiness builds on happiness as is possible in no other way.

This is adapted from The Moral Rules by the late Bernard Gert, a philosopher who claimed that it is possible to create a rational code of morality, based on rules of conduct that would be publicly advocated by all rational persons—a rational person being defined as someone who desires to be happy or to make a loved one happy.   He noted that most human beings agree on what is right and wrong.  Where we disagree is what the exceptions are, and he agreed that any rule can have an exception.

What I like about Gert is that he did not set up a false opposition between logic and love.  Reason, in his philosophy, was not a substitute for emotion or desire.  It was a means by which you harmonize and prioritize feelings and desires.

Gretchen Rubin’s secrets of adulthood

November 14, 2010

The days are long, but the years are short.

Someplace, keep an empty shelf.

Turning the computer on and off a few times often fixes a glitch.

It’s okay to ask for help.

You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.

Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.

What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.

You don’t have to be good at everything.

Soap and water remove most stains.

It’s important to be nice to everyone.

You know as much as most people.

Over-the-counter medicines are very effective.

Eat better, eat less, exercise more.

What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you — and vice versa.

People actually prefer that you buy wedding gifts off their register.

House plants and photo albums are a lot of trouble.

If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.

No deposit, no return.


Top 5 wishes that won’t make you happy

November 7, 2010

What follows are excerpts from longer pieces on the Cracked,com web site.

5.  FAME.

Studies show nothing is more stressful for a human than when their goals are tied to the approval of others. Particularly when those “others” are an enormous crowd of fickle strangers holding you up to a laughably unrealistic ideal built by publicists, thick makeup and heavily Photoshopped magazine covers.

You could seek comfort from your circle of friends, only now your friends have been replaced Invasion of the Body Snatcher’s-style with hangers-on, vultures, unscrupulous characters and plain dumbasses who only want a piece of the spotlight. . . even if it means selling you out later.

Click on Fame, Wealth and Beauty for more.


… As social creatures, we compare ourselves to our neighbors. This is why executives can cry about the $500,000 salary cap that comes with taking government bailout money. Their friends are making $3 million a year and live in igloo made out of cocaine. We can laugh at their complaints, but of course then you’re giving the Nigerian permission to laugh at yours. That guy made 100 times more than you, you make 100 times more than the Nigerian.

Once you start hanging around the other high earners, you’ll want all the stuff they have.  No, that’s not right–you’ll want the stuff that’s so much better than their stuff that they’ll vomit with envy. As one magazine for Wall Street bigshots put it, you want the stuff that will be “a huge middle finger to everyone who enters your home.”

Click on Fame, Wealth and Beauty for more.