In Happiness today we’ll note Frederic Lenoir’s sensible concession, countering an earlier invitation to be “happy every moment,” that that no one is happy all the time. That’s more reasonable. But, maybe a zen form of the broader ambition can be salvaged with just a bit of attentive adjustment. Alan Watts, who lives timelessly on in cyberspace as insinuated by the film Her, puts it smartly:
Dispelling dread isn’t a matter of trying to forget about washing dishes.
Alan Watts @AlanWattsDaily It is realizing that in actual fact you only have one dish to wash, ever: this one; only one step to take, ever: this one. And that is Zen.
And is that happiness?
It might be interesting to funnel all of our discussion questions today through the “one dish” filter, and ask what would Alan say?
- Can you confirm the claim that we always recur to our happiness set-point? Have you experienced unsustained highs or lows? Do you think you’ve raised your personal set-point, over the course of your life? Are you working to do so?
- Do you anticipate a “mellow” future? Do you dread the prospect of senescence?
- Are we really “visceral egoists”? And isn’t it an error to include Adam Smith (as opposed to some free-marketeers who think they’re following him) as one of these? (“There is nothing is Adam Smith to support a ‘greed is good’ mentality,”write Solomon & Higgins.) Are you an altruist?
- Have you personally experienced the phenomenon of (un-)happy contagion?
- If schaudenfreude can be explained in evolutionary terms, can cooperation and the spirit of mutual support be similarly explained?
In actual fact we only have one question to answer, the one Lenoir finds frequently annoying: “Are you happy?”
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