Happy $

Cold and blustery out there this morning, winter wind threateningly howling… I don’t suppose today’s classes will want to continue yesterday’s successful peripatetic experiment. Fair weather philosophers, most of us. But my serious advice to anyone prone to get down and S.A.D., as the season regresses, is to just bundle up and get out there. That’s what we’ll be doing in the U.K., where summer’s not always summery. One of the tricks to happiness is to do at least one thing every day that defeats disinclination. Ride the flywheel, it feels so good when you’re done.

Then again, there’s much to be said for cocooning in winter. Put the tea on, pull the blanket up, grab a good book, after your heroic walk. Happiness Myth‘s pretty good, no?

Today JMH raises the issue of money. She concedes right away that there’s a popular fallacy she calls the “abundance inference,” which falsely projects an expanding arc of happiness that will lift us ever higher. For most of us, a little money makes a big difference in our happiness while a lot returns diminished dividends.

And yet, some “symbolically important phenomena” will make you happy, and some of those can be bought. The cheap little chromebook I’m tapping on right now? Still makes me smile, as the heavy depressing expensive model in the drawer beneath it idles.

Just think of all those who cannot afford the higher-priced model, but for whom a $200 laptop might symbolize and realize the possibility of joining our little global village and climbing out of degraded poverty. What’s inferior about that grade of happiness?

But I wouldn’t go so far as Hecht, as to say that “all shopping allows the possibility that we will come into possession of something marvelous, graceful, and sublime.” Attention K-mart shoppers: diminishing returns, remember?

And I just feel sorry for Frank O’Hara, who “can’t even enjoy a blade of grass” (or a blast of chill wind, I guess it goes without saying) apart from the humanly-constructed world of commerce and cash value.

Can Money Make You Happy? Is there nothing quite as wonderful? Is it really a four-star daydream, a gas in fact? No, says PC conventionality. “Everybody knows that money doesn’t buy happiness.”

The trouble with what everybody knows, to paraphrase Mark Twain, is that sometimes it isn’t so. It’s not always so wise to follow the crowd.

Money can buy happiness, and it already did…It is a modern myth that money and happiness are unrelated for the wise and in direct proportion for the shallow. They are never unrelated…

Aristotle, for instance, acknowledged that happiness “requires a degree of comfort.” But only a small degree, “abundance does not correlate with happiness” to anywhere near the degree that poverty correlates with unhappiness.

“Interestingly, and usefully, it turns out that what we do with our money plays a far more important role than how much money we make. Imagine three people each win $1 million in the lottery. Suppose one person attempts to buy every single thing he has ever wanted; one puts it all in the bank and uses the money only sparingly, for special occasions; and one gives it all to charity. At the end of the year, they all would report an additional $1 million of income. Many of us would follow the first person’s strategy, but the latter two winners are likely to get the bigger happiness bang for their buck…” Don’t Indulge. Be Happy.

“The crux of the question is what is it that we wish to achieve? Measures like Gross National Product (GNP) claim to answer this. We’re expected to be happy when it grows, and worried when it falls. But GNP is actually a very strange measure of anything. It only counts the velocity of the flow of money and stuff through the economy as they change hands in economic transactions. The more money that gets spent, conventional wisdom says, the better off we are.

But are we? If you volunteer at a home for the elderly, you’ve done nothing to increase the GNP. A divorcing cancer patient who gets in a car wreck adds handsomely to the GNP as money goes for insurance, repairs, and medical bills. But is she any better off? Clearly not.” We’re Expected to Be Happy [Medium Chill (or, what you can learn from Jimmy Buffett… or, how to defeat the “Bitch-goddess “Success”)…]

It’s commonly, winkingly noted that the roots of our material culture in America run from Jefferson’s “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” back to John Locke’s “life, liberty, and property (estate).” The insinuation is that Jefferson was importing a crass idea under cover of a pretty, idealized euphemism.

Less often acknowledged, and much more intriguing, is Jefferson’s Epicureanism. He admired its naturalism– he so despised supernaturalism that he snipped those parts out of his Bible– its  secularism, and its happy vision of simple, virtuous pleasure. “Epicurus ran a coed, hedonistic philosopher’s retreat called the Garden,” encouraged serious reflection for its own sake, and valued personal freedom and independence above institutions, congregations, and confederations.

For his part, Jefferson valued his own “garden” at Monticello– a commune-like compound, staffed by slaves who we now know were as good as family, if not quite accorded the status and dignity of friendly communal equals in the Epicurean sense. They were more literally confined to the “garden.” But we also now know that money was a problem for him, too. He sold his books to create the library of congress, not only as a public-spirited act of generosity but because he really needed the dough.

JMH:  “There are obvious happiness advantages to having some money,” and not only for those with little. “The difference between a phenomenal wheelchair and one that is just good enough is not trivial.” Nor, during the Series, is the difference between an ordinary TV and a crisp-&-pretty hi-def model. When it rains, of course, it doesn’t matter how good the reception. That’s a literal truth, but more importantly it’s a reminder that the conditions of our happiness are subject to fortune and circumstance far more than we like to think.

So, “money can buy some happiness” and stave off the wolf at the door. That’s not a hard sell, in depressive recessive times,  but we mustn’t oversell. The road to hell is paved with the obsessive, self-righteous  monomania of owning things.  Consumerism is more than performance, it’s a drug too.

via Blogger http://jposopher.blogspot.com/2013/11/happy.html


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