Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Friday, April 16, 2010


I like this pattern I've set up of doing a post regarding meditation and then a post about a novel or poem, so expect more of that in the future. Today is a meditation day!

When people tell me there ultimate goal in life is NOT to find happiness, I find it hard to believe them. I think the main motivators or things people are looking for in life are survival, well-being, and happiness. If someone tells me they want to be in a position of power (cough cough Chris), I think what they mean is they believe power and influence and control will bring them a measure of happiness and satisfaction or otherwise promote their well-being. Same with saying you want a good job, a family, etc.

So here is an excerpt from Matthieu Ricard's book Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill.

Is happiness a skill that, once acquired, endures through the ups and downs of life?

...For some people, talking about the search for happiness seems almost in bad taste. Protected by their armor of intellectual complacency, they sneer at it as they would at a sentimental novel.
How did such devaluation come about? Is it a reflection of the artificial happiness offered by the media? Is it a result of the failed efforts we use to find genuine happiness? Are we supposed to come to terms with unhappiness rather than make a genuine and intelligent attempt to untangle happiness from suffering?


  1. Do people actually tell you that their goal in life is to AVOID happiness? This seems completely IDIOTIC. How can you live your life like that? My own mantra is to wake up each morning and then put one foot in front of the other. I do my best to enjoy it along the way. (I think I'm just paraphrasing an actual famous quotation by someone else.)

    With that said, I do think that our culture has a sometimes unhealthy relationship to happiness. If you're not happy, or if you don't appear happy, it's assumed that there's something wrong, that something needs to be fixed. And often we don't do that which makes us happiest.

    Anyway, that's a provocative quotation.

  2. No one has told me they want to avoid happiness, no. Well...sometimes artistic types seem to want to cultivate afflicted emotions for the sake of art.

    "And often we don't do that which makes us happiest."
    The Buddhists think that ultimately external things will only make you temporarily happy, and so you have to cultivate an inner happiness that will persist through the good and the bad parts of life.