Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life


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Now, that would be really meaningful. As the researchers note, people underestimate how happy deep thinking will make them feel! The views expressed are those of the author s and are not necessarily those of Scientific American. Scott Barry Kaufman is a psychologist at Columbia University exploring intelligence, creativity, personality and well-being. You have free article s left. Already a subscriber? Sign in. See Subscription Options.

But not always. Feeling healthy was related to happiness, but not meaning.

Feeling good was related to happiness, not meaning. Scarcity of money reduced happiness more than meaning. Helping people in need was linked to meaning but not happiness. Expecting to do a lot of deep thinking was positively related to meaningfulness, but negatively with happiness. The more people felt their activities were consistent with core themes and values of their self, the greater meaning they reported in their activities. Seeing oneself as wise, creative, and even anxious were all linked to meaning but had no relationship and in some cases, even showed a negative relationship to happiness.

Scott Barry Kaufman Scott Barry Kaufman is a psychologist at Columbia University exploring intelligence, creativity, personality and well-being.

Is a Happy Life Different from a Meaningful One?

Are You a Moral Grandstander? Do Narcissists Ever Grow Up? Load comments. Get smart. Sign up for our email newsletter.

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Sign Up. Read More Previous. See Subscription Options Already a subscriber? Sign In See Subscription Options. While the epic of Gilgamesh is just a myth, this second moral has played out countless times in the real world. In ancient China, some religious believers devoted themselves to conquering death through the strangest of techniques. One involved drinking chemical concoctions which would supposedly balance out the forces within the human body and thereby obstruct the process of dying.

Ironically, many believers poisoned themselves to death through these experiments. Eventually the believer would not need to breathe at all, and thereby become immortal. Today, there are organizations devoted to achieving physical immortality. Some recommend taking as many as nutritional supplements a day. Others place hope in biological advances that will reverse the natural deterioration of human cells.

Still others look forward to the day when our minds can become digitized, essentially making computerized versions of our present brain processes. What should we think about these efforts to avoid dying? One of the more notable philosophical discussions of death is by German philosopher Martin Heidegger Death, according to Heidegger, is not really an event that happens to me, since it only involves the termination of all possible experiences that I might have. After all, it is impossible for me to experience my own death.

Rather than thinking of death as an episode that takes place at the tail end of my life, I should instead view it as an integral part of who I am right now, and during each moment of my life in the future. I continually aim towards death and, even when I feel healthy, in a fundamental way I am really terminally ill. It is like playing a game such as soccer where, embedded in every moment, there is the idea that time is running out. So, Heidegger says, if I ignore my persistent movement towards death, or resist it as Gilgamesh did, I am only deceiving myself and living in a substandard world of make-believe.

By contrast, a proper understanding of death clearly lays down the basic rules of the game of life and thereby gives life form and purpose. If I could continually think of myself as on the path towards death as Heidegger suggests, that might help me accept my mortality. For one thing, the natural instinct to survive compels me to resist death at almost all costs, and this is something that I share with many creatures in the animal world. For another, I cannot psychologically conceive of the future without secretly injecting myself into it. Even if I try to picture the world a thousand years down the road, I am still there as a ghostly spectator to the events I am imagining.

According to one neurological study, our brains have a built-in death-denial mechanism that can even be detected in brain scans. In this study, if I am presented with video images relating to the death of other people, I will believe that the threat of death to those people is reliable. However, if I am presented with similar video images relating to my own death, I will find the threat of death to be unreliable, and I will not believe that it could happen to me Dor-Ziderman, "Prediction-Based Neural Mechanisms".

Thus, whether I like it or not, I am inherently resistant to the idea of my non-existence. My natural human attitude towards death, then, may be to assume that I am immortal, and, at the same time, be horrified when I look in the mirror and see my body disintegrating before my eyes. So, the desire for immortality and its accompanying despair, like Gilgamesh experienced, may simply be part of life. While there, he sees legendary people who are being punished for evils they committed when alive. Lying helplessly, two vultures pick at his liver; he swats them to shoo them away, but they keep returning.

Another fellow is parched with thirst, but cannot succeed in reaching water.

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Wading in a lake up to his chin, whenever he stoops down to drink, it immediately dries up leaving only dusty ground. He sees succulent fruit trees above him, but as soon as he reaches for their produce the wind sweeps the branches into the clouds. Then there is Sisyphus, a deceitful king who tricked the god of death and stayed alive longer than he should have. He finally died and went to Hades, but the punishment for his trickery was not a pleasant one. Day after day he pushes a huge stone up a hill, but, always losing energy as he nears the top, he lets it go and it rolls back down. Homer describes the scene here:.

I saw Sisyphus at his endless task raising his gigantic stone with both his hands. With hands and feet he tried to roll it up to the top of the hill, but always, just before he could roll it over onto the other side, its weight would be too much for him, and, without pity, the stone would come thundering down again onto the plain below. Then he would begin trying to push it up hill again, and the sweat ran off him and steam rose from his head. All three of these scenes from Hades depict people trapped into performing futile tasks: swatting vultures, stooping to drink, pushing a bolder.

Jill works in a lawnmower manufacturing plant, and her job is to bolt lawnmower blades onto motors. She has thirty seconds to line up the pieces and attach them together. As soon as one is done, another follows on its heels.


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To reduce monotony, the factory rotates Jill and other employees from one work station to another, but, after a few minutes, the routine kicks in. Jill likes her co-workers and has no complaints against her supervisor. Still, at the end of the day, she feels that she may as well have been pushing a boulder up a hill. It is not just assembly line jobs that carry a sense of tedious futility. Accountants, teachers, doctors, and most skilled workers face early burnout.

What we do in our spare time is often no more rewarding. A good portion of the day is spent in monotonous domestic chores, cleaning, driving to and fro, shopping, personal hygiene. Year after year, this seem as futile as assembling lawnmower blades. French philosopher Albert Camus believed that the story of Sisyphus had another symbolic message. Camus called this the absurdity of life.


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  • Human life, he argued, cannot be neatly dissected and understood by human reason in the same way that scientists might successfully analyze and understand chemical reactions. We strive to be happy, but instead are trapped in a life of futile efforts.

    Happiness

    The problem is so bad that it might drive some to suicide. So, Sisyphus represents the overwhelming struggle that we each have in overcoming a pointless life. But Camus is not content to let the issue rest with despair. Instead, he recommends that we revolt against the apparent pointlessness of life, accept our condition as limited as it is, and in that find happiness.

    Sisyphus should embrace his boulder-pushing task; the value rests in his effort, not in what he achieves. We must imagine Sisyphus happy. The problem may be resistant to a simple attitude adjustment, as zoo keepers have discovered in their experience with the mental well-being of gorillas.

    Happiness vs Meaning? : Life Goals — part 1

    For decades gorillas were kept in controlled enclosures with fixed routines like feeding schedules. While their basic needs were being met, the gorillas were all bored and depressed. Zoologists then discovered that gorillas needed complex tasks to challenge them throughout the day and keep their mental energies peaked. Applying this lesson to human happiness, we might look for the kinds of challenging tasks that spark our interests throughout the day. We might need shorter and more varied work days; we might need more direct involvement with growing and preparing food; we might need the opportunity to explore new surroundings through travel; we might need to break free of overcrowded urban settings.

    In the end we might find that humans were designed to be content in tiny hunter-gatherer tribal groups — the condition in which the human species first evolved. Modern industrial life may not be suited to ward off a sense of futility, and for us the human condition today may be inherently absurd with no real solution. Like Sisyphus, then, we unendingly push a boulder to no purpose. He breaks into a song about how enormous the galaxy is, containing a hundred billion stars over a distance of a hundred thousand light-years from side to side. The Milky Way itself, he explains, is only one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the ever-expanding universe.

    He concludes,. So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure,.

    Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life
    Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life
    Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life
    Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life
    Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life
    Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life
    Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life
    Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life Part 1 - Happiness And The Meaning Of Life
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