Archives for posts with tag: Pursuit of Happiness

People are promised:

Do ‘this’ and you’ll be happy.
Follow these rules and you’ll reach ‘nirvana’.

Some of us heed to this advice.
Only to discover that the only happiness they reach following this path is that produced by a dutifully fulfilled task.
That of following rules…

The catch being that following rules – the right ones, is required but never enough.
Following rules – the right ones, again – is helpful towards survival. Nothing more.

Drive safely and you’re more likely to get there.


That’s up to you.
There’s no rule about that!

We need to eat.
At some point, we discovered that by cooking it we got more out of the food we had at our disposal.
Then we learned to cook tastier and tastier meals.

Nowadays, more and more of us wonder

Why Do We Love Unhealthy Foods So Much?

Because we’ve some how convinced ourselves that being happy trumps being alive.

Evolutively speaking, pleasure is a ‘heads up’. It tells us that we do ‘the right thing’. That the food we eat is suitable for us. Nourishing.
Evolutively speaking, happiness is a heads up. That we’re on the right track. That we’re doing nothing to jeopardize our survival.

Those ‘heads – up’ were valid. Once…
And they still are. When ‘used with discretion’.

The problem being that we’re currently harnessing the horse behind the cart.

We’re no longer pursuing life as a wholesome experience.
We just want to be happy!
We no longer eat to remain alive.
We just want to have a better experience! An even better experience than the previous one…

Should we return to the Stone Age?
When so many of us died of hunger? Of illness?
Should we give up the ‘pursuit of happiness’ as a legitimate goal?!?

How about being happy while pursuing a meaningful life?

At some point some of our ancestors figured that saving for tomorrow some of today’s bounty might increase the chances of survival for those who consistently practiced the habit.

Probably this happened in the temperate regions, where’s a marked difference between seasons and where the cool winters make it easier to store food.

And this is how thrift has become a commendable behavior.

Flash forward to the Enlightenment.

Drawing heavily from the Christian tradition prevalent in that cultural area – ‘God made Man in His own likeness’ – the ‘enlightened’ thinkers of the era determined that ‘Men were (created) equal’ – since all of them bore a certain likeness to the same standard.

Hence they must enjoy equal rights too. Including the right of pursuing happiness.

Go ahead. Click that link and read all about it. The guy writes a lot better than I’ll ever be able to. He even has an PhD on the subject.

The only problem is that he’s got it upside down. Using logic as a flash light to flush out happiness is like raping a woman in order to help her experience an orgasm.

But there’s another way to get there.

Csickszentmihalyi, who also has an PhD in psychology, noticed that people are a lot more likely to experience happiness by doing things and enjoying the results of their work than when trying to reach happiness ‘directly’. Even if he still uses the same term, “pursuit of happiness“, his approach is completely different from the one I mentioned first.

In this second scenario, happiness is no longer a goal per se but simply an indication that we are on the right track.

Towards what?

I simply don’t know.

I started with what our ancestors figured out. Imagine, for a moment, what those guys felt when a handful of them were gathered around a fire inside a cave, in the middle of February, munching on some fried meat that had been ‘preserved’ sometime in the autumn, specially when the north-easterly winds were howling outside. Was it happiness?

Again, I don’t know.
But please consider this: Did those guys stash wood, smoke hams and gather berries all autumn so that they might enjoy some moments of happiness in February or they did it in an attempt to survive the winter?

So why do we keep speaking about ‘gratification‘?
What’s the real difference between ‘instant’ and ‘delayed’ gratification? As long as we continue to see it as ‘the ultimate goal’?
A junkie who stretches his stash of dope for longer is any wiser than his mate who ‘enjoys’ his in one go?

last day 1

last day 2

Photo credit: Akram Abahre. While European countries are being lectured about their failure to take in enough refugees, Saudi Arabia – which has taken in precisely zero migrants – has 100,000 air conditioned tents that can house over 3 million people sitting empty.

Those tents have been erected there precisely for the pilgrims who go there for the Hajj. They are empty now because at this time of the year there are no pilgrims, yet.
If the Saudis were to invite refugees to stay, temporarily, in those tents, they would have to provide for those refugees more stable lodging by the time of the next Hajj.
Integrate them, that is.
And this is the reason for which the Syrians are not at all welcome there, just as the Palestinians were not welcome either. They would upset the balance of power.
Basically the rulers of the Gulf states bribe their citizens with money coming in from the rest of the world while shamelessly exploiting imported workforce, allowed to stay only on temporary visas. The Syrians (and the Palestinians) would have to be accepted on a more permanent basis and offered the option for a full citizenship. That would both dilute the per capita revenue of the citizens and introduce a more liberal line of thought in a very conservative society.
Yes, a more liberal line of thought. The Syrians do not insist that their women cover their faces and have tried, repeatedly, to out-throw the ruling family.
So yes, the wealthy Gulf States are indeed very hypocritical “when it comes to helping with the crisis.” (they have helped create) but that’s no excuse for us to follow their example.
After all it is us who came up with the notions of ‘human rights’ and ‘pursuit of happiness’, didn’t we?

I recently stumbled upon this book and devoured it.

Then something really interesting downed on me. Maslow’s Pyramid and Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow suddenly had a new meaning.

Basically all three of them say the same thing, using different words and starting from different vantage points. Looking from each of those vantage points offers the traveler a vastly improved perspective on the subject.

Maslow says that after it was able to satisfy its basic and social needs it’s up to each individual to ‘spread its wings’ and determine where it wants to go from there on – ‘self actualization’ in his own terms.

Frankl says that it’s more important to understand than to have.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
No, it doesn’t contradict Maslow, it just starts from where Maslow has set his subjects free. While Maslow had taken his students up to a wide plateau and set them free to choose their own paths, Frankl – after having to endure conditions way crueler than any of those mentioned by Maslow as ‘basic and social needs’ – takes his students by the hand and leads them away from the precipice.
Maslow couldn’t conceive that anybody would go back after being shown the light, Frankl had experienced on his own skin the consequences of some idiots doing just that.

Finally Csikszentmihalyi brings forward a ‘how to’ guide, some very powerful advice about how to reach the pinnacle of our own potential.

From here it’s really up to us.

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