Archive for September 12th, 2017

I’ve just posted on my Blog about: Sources and springs, and beyond

September 12, 2017

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Sources and springs, and beyond

September 12, 2017

Today in Happiness we’ll ponder the sources of happiness, or as I like to say (following William James) the springs of delight. And then we’ll wonder what’s beyond happiness: well-being, flourishing, eudaimonia.

Is delight the same as happiness? The floor is open, on that, but I’ve never been unhappily delighted. When I am delighted, I am well. It’s close enough for me.

Some of us may be genetically predisposed to experience more delight, but “plenty of things can affect how happy we are” whatever our personal “set point.” That can be an excuse for not trying, when the evidence is clear that “human beings are remarkably adaptable and resilient” and thus almost always capable of being happier.

 But beware, “people who place a higher value on money, possessions, and status tend to be less happy.” Such extrinsic motivators are inferior, while the enlightened rich whose motivation is intrinsic and interior are often less materialistic than the poor. Go figure.

What else matters, besides intrinsic motivation? An outlook that’s positive, accepting, and caring. And besides outlook? Security, autonomy, relationships, something to do that’s skilled and meaningful.

But circle back to money, which is too frequently given short shrift in these discussions. It can’t buy you love, but if you’re pulling less than 75K you’re going to notice the happiness-income link.

Aristotelians say its in our nature to pursue happiness and fulfillment as activities in accordance with virtue. So, if you could plug into an Experience Machine that made you feel happy, would you be happy? Wouldn’t you like to find out?

“Desire theories assert that what’s good for you is getting what you want.” You can’t always get what you want. What do you need? “People often want things that aren’t good for them,” so perhaps we should challenge James’s contention that “the only possible reason there can be why any phenomenon ought to exist is that such a phenomenon actually is desired. Any desire is imperative to the extent of its amount; it makes itself valid by the fact that it exists at all…” MPML

As for the strivers and enjoyers, I find myself allied with the great E.B. White: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” So, different days for different desires?

Lots more provocative questions for discussion today. My favorites: Is happiness really a choice? Is accepting things as they are really responsible? How would YOU use the Experience Machine?

I’m happy to pass along this Happiness wisdom from cousin Mary, the poet:

Oliver said: “I’ve always wanted to write poems and nothing else. There were times over the years when life was not easy, but if you’re working a few hours a day and you’ve got a good book to read, and you can go outside to the beach and dig for clams, you’re okay.”

(If you’re landlocked, you’re going to have to substitute for the clams.)

And as for Desire Theory, it’s hard to dispute Calvin & Hobbes:

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