Happiness is neither the journey nor the destination, it's simply something we get more than enough of when we travel the right way. And he spends the Day of the Dead in a Mexican hamlet to understand better why it's good to remind yourself vividly of your mortality.
It could be argued that Burkeman does not go far enough. I need gentle encouragement and lots of treats in order to do anything. It is rather a family of approaches that share an interest in coming to terms with the imperfections of reality in a number of different ways.
I have tried it on and off for about 40 years, and always get fed up with it after just a short time. He cites Anthony Trollope, who unfailingly used to write for 3 hours each morning, before going off to his day job. Surprisingly, he feels, therein lies the path to happiness - or at least the path to detachment, acceptance and contentment. The author, Oliver Burkeman, a Guardian journalist covering psychology, says that instead we need to Curmudgeonly Brit that I am, I enjoyed this book a lot.
The general drift of the book is that the roaring ra-ra-ra of positive thinking does not work. Only at the very end does he come close to questioning happiness as the most desirable outcome.
It could be argued that Burkeman does not go far enough. Strangely though this doesn't stop me aligning myself with the rather Spartan ideas put forward in the book. I on the other hand am a jelly person. I think this approach to life is only feasible if you are naturally a disciplined person.
All of this provides plenty of opportunities to be pat, glib or superficial but Burkeman never takes them. Even the father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman , has pretty much abandoned it, preferring instead to talk about flourishing, the thing that Aristotle saw as the highest human good.
Posted by: Fenrigis | on October 2, 2012
The book was very interesting indeed,but it isn't going to alter the lifestyle or perspectives of an emotional jellied wimp like myself. And worries about becoming insecure do seem to be at the root of a lot of anxiety in western societies.
Although Burkeman commends truthfulness, he doesn't stress its value for its own sake, only as a surer means to happiness than rose-tinted vision. For instance, in Kenya he can see that simply taking the apparent happiness of its people at face value is "laden with problems", from the racism of thinking that "primitive" people are simpler souls than westerners to the political conclusion that nothing needs to be done to alleviate their poverty.
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