4/17/12 questions and discussion

From: Jon A.
Sent on: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 2:56 PM
4/17/12 questions and discussion

1-what will happen if we work less?4
2-is Obama more conservative than Norwegian conservatives?3
3-how do we distinguish between an act of god and a quirk of fate or karma?6
4-why is it so easy to revoke individual civil rights through the courts?5
5-since the declaration of independence states that the freedom to pursue happiness is an inalienable right, if one isn't happy does one lose the freedom to complain?5

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why do we do things that make it less likely we'll be happy?7

Jon: this question refers to a book I'm reading about happiness (The Happiness Hypothesis by J. Haidt). He claims we have two kinds of happiness, and both are important. They can be labelled as simply "inner" and "outer" happiness. Outer happiness comes from the acquisition of things like a new car, a bigger house, new furniture, etc, and inner happiness comes as the result of pleasant experiences like time relaxing, time with friends and family, traveling, etc. Outer happiness is short-lived, inner happiness lasts a long time. Again, both are important to our overall happiness. I ask this question because I have the sense that we are more willing to sacrifice our inner happiness in order to have outer happiness. For example, long commutes to work are commonly a source of stress/unhappiness. Such commutes can be the product of people living far away from where they work, which is commonly the result of living in a suburb and buying a larger house. In this example one is satisfying outer happiness by living in a suburb and in a larger house and simultaneously sacrificing inner happiness by losing time one could spend with family or just relaxing (not commuting), not forgetting the likely added expense of living in a larger home in the suburbs which may compound the loss of free time via overtime work or just feeling the pressure to pay the bills. 

Larry: Maslow's hierarchy of needs -- according to Joseph Campbell -- makes life blah. Its primary emphasis on meeting basic and material needs are for him insufficient. Campbell advocated instead finding out what it is that makes you you; follow one's passion. Campbell is well known for the phrase "Follow your bliss".

Lynn: how can you follow your dreams without Maslow? Doesn't the satisfaction of material needs lead us to satisfying one's need for a passion? We can't successfully follow our bliss without first taking care of our material lives.

Jim: we end up with the same dilemma as in politics. It's imperative that the individual knows how he relates to the group -- this is the importance of satisfying outer happiness. Keeping up with the Joneses is how well we know we're doing. It is key to everyone's happiness.

Jon: here's a trap I found while thinking along the same lines as Jim; growing income inequality -- which some say is a particular problem for present day America -- can be seen as a failure to enable outer happiness. For the majority of Americans who see this  income gap getting bigger there will likely be a sense of failing to fit in, failing to relate successfully to the group. If true does this not imply that we ought to work to prevent growing income disparities?

Jim: society must be fair, must reward merit. It's easy to cast income disparity as problematic. I wish it were solely political -- it is a good political tool -- but there are systemic elements preventing economic fairness. I think this issue is now mostly political.

David: going back a long ways, I don't think people were all that unhappy. Advertising now has us with a distorted sense of happiness. As to wealth, all humans have a compulsion; the compulsion of the wealthy is hoarding money. People have satisfied social/inner happiness by joining groups they could afford to join. If not the country club then the Elks club. I bet most people don't know what makes them happy. This has been true for all time.

Larry: Haidt went to India, lived with a family for several months. They told him not to thank the servants. At first he thought this terrible, but eventually he saw that it worked for the servants; they were happy. Leaving India and during his trip someone on the plane appalled Haidt by loudly complaining about their on-board storage space. What makes us happy is doing a good job, doing well, and feeling secure.

Jon: Haidt also asserts that everyone has a different "set point" of happiness. For example, a person who is injured, leaving them paraplegic, will at first be much less happy than they were before the injury. However with time it has been found that that person will return to the level of happiness they had before the injury.

Dick: in old days people were happier because their lives were simpler, less tempting. Advertising makes us unhappier, tempts us far more than for our ancestors. 

Jim: where I get sort of depressed are the stories like the father who loses two sons while sailing or the kid playing baseball who gets killed being hit by the ball. We hear so much news of this kind and so often, we tend to think it common rather than rare. We become more likely to see life as more dangerous than it is, more unhappy than it is. Lack of community is for me a big problem in our society now. religion for me is a good solution to that lack.

David: yet religion caused it by itself splintering (Catholic - Protestant - Methodist/Baptist/Lu­theran etc).

Jon: this week I watched a documentary about the Shaker communities which existed for about 70 years in the eastern half of the US, starting about the time of the American Revolution. They decided happiness was the product of doing everything for god. They also lived celibate lives(and were dependent upon converts to maintain their numbers). They are best known nowadays for their furniture and architectural designs. They, according to some, successfully sublimated the sexual drive for the purpose of building and maintaining a beautiful society. 
To Jim's observation about our negative news, Michael Moore, in one of his documentaries (single payer health care?) said when visiting Canada he watched their evening news and found it tremendously dull: no stories of crime or bad human stuff. The Canadian news is largely about government activity. Is it likelier that Canadians are not going overboard about what they might find bad and so less likely to behave like our Tea Party or Michelle Bachman or Rick Santorum?

Dick: shouldn't we lessen our emphasis on productivity and emphasize invention more? We aren't adequately rewarding invention.

Jon: might an increased national emphasis on inner happiness result in a decline in our consumption of stuff? Might that harm the economy?

Lynn: who has a vested interest in stuff?

Jim: there is a chicken-egg issue there. Production of stuff comes as a result of demand (and visa versa!).

Larry: isn't happiness a selfish goal? The Japanese may be happier with their group sensibilities.

David: it is all about "me." In the end it is all about the individual.

Larry: American selfishness; we see things differently.

Jim: I suspect happiness is a chemical event. Selfishness is from subconscious requirements, how we make happiness happen is what matters.

David: when I say it's all about me I'm not saying it as a negative.

Jim: what I disagree with is that there is a right way to be happy.

Kevin: what about the people who are always complaining. The ones with the "whoa is me" attitude?

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