Thursday, November 15, 2007

a better perspective on happiness

the other night i was really grumpy and out of sorts, weary with some issues and desperate for perspective.  two journals came in the mail that day, one from world vision and the other from heifer international.  both looked as if they'd offer an abundance of perspective on the peevish things that ailed me so i climbed in bed to be convicted.  the articles featured in heifer international's mag ranged from ending world  hunger, dealing with the effects of climate change on the poor, to a write-up on happiness. 

i started with the happiness article written by a guy who's authored a book titled "how to change the world."  weighing heavy on me was my own vacillating unhappiness and the unhappiness around me.  i hadn't expected this source to set me right.

the article began with the claim that "...human beings are not designed to make themselves happy."  he goes on to challenge with this:

"many of today's books on happiness are filled with advice that anyone would do well to follow: simplify your life, count your blessings, take care of your body, express gratitude, don't forget to reflect on your feelings, find meaningful work and cultivate relationships.  but one question that is missing is: can happiness be successfully pursued in a self-interested fashion?  the chinese taoist philosopher chuang-tse did not think so.  he described happiness as 'the absence of the striving for happiness.'  and john stuart mill observed: 'those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end.  aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way."

i'm certain i would be better off if i could only stop thinking of myself.


Barb said...

i blogged on a similar theme this morning :)

Josh Cashion said...

hey geoff and sherry. glad to find your blog. we need to get together soon.