Posts Tagged ‘Buddhist Monk’

Happiness

March 1, 2020

This post is motivated by a book by Rowan Hooper titled Superhuman: Life at the Extremes of our Capacity.

Here is a famous poem by E.A. Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

The following taken from Voltaire, Notebooks

“We all look for happiness, but without knowing where to find it: like drunkards who look for their house, knowing dimly that they have one.”

So happiness appears to be an elusive concept. Actually, happiness is easy to achieve provided that one has an appropriate frame of mind. Take people with the locked-in syndrome, for example. In the extreme form of the locked-in syndrome, the sufferers have no means of interacting with the external world.

But Jean-Dominique Bauby was still able to blink his eyes after suffering a devastating stroke, He managed to write the book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by blinking his eye. This book was made into a highly recommended motion picture. He died shortly after this book was published.

Brain imaging has identified living individuals who were locked in and had no means, even eye-blinking. This finding was extremely depressing. Yet, to the best of HM’s knowledge, none of these individuals requested that their lives be ended.

Hooper relates the stories of several individuals who are classified as being locked in as their means of interacting with the world are severely limited, yet who are happy in their lives. One of these individuals said, “I’ve come to the conclusion that my brain’s default setting is happiness.” Others, while not attributing their happiness to their brain setting, showed resilience in adapting to their condition.

It is likely that the majority of humans believe that wealth paves the road to happiness, although that was certainly not the case with Richard Cory; and there are wealthy people who do commit suicide.

Researchers Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers found that as income increases, so does happiness, although it increases at increasingly smaller amounts. This kind of measure of happiness is called lifetime evaluation.

A more accurate technique for measuring happiness is called experiential sampling. In this method, you buzz people randomly on their mobiles throughout the day, and ask them, “How happy are you right now, on a scale of 1 to 10. Using the experimental sampling measure there is no increase beyond $75,000. As that study was done a few years ago, that amount has obviously increased. The point is that what is commonly regarded as a good salary hits the effective maximum. In other words, a million dollars a year does not make you happier. This study’s done by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton of Princeton University that analyzed 450,000 experimental response from 1000 US citizens.

Yet there are billionaires still motivated to earn more and more billions. As these people can live only one life, and their extend families can only extend so far, one wonders why. Apparently, it is simply a matter of ego. These people do give money, but it is usually black money given to politicians or to organizations that support politicians that will fight tax increases and any laws they fill will restrict their growth of income. They also want to restrict and control the lives of fellow citizens so that they march to the drummer they want these citizens to march to.

One would think that via philanthropy, they can increase the well-being of others. Excellent examples of these people are Warrant Buffet, one of the world’s foremost capitalists, and William and Melinda Gates, who are using both their wealth and operations research to maximize the effects of their giving. Both Buffet and the Gates are against inherited wealth because they do not think it is good for their children. It is also not good for the health of the country. Inherited wealth has a pernicious effect.

There are also people who achieve happiness by working directly for the public and the needy. There is a post on this blog, Trump vs. a Buddhist Monk that argues that the Buddhist Monk is the happier of the two.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Life Effects of Volunteering

January 15, 2020

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Jami Zaki in the Health & Science section of the 14 January, 2020 Washington Post. Saki begins by quoting Martin Luther King Jr.”

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”

Dr. King also described a mistake that wastes many lives. He called it the drum major instinct, “a desire to be out front to lead the parade, a desire to be first.”

Human children remain helpless for years. They crave attention; without it they would die. Zaki writes,”But instead of subsiding with age, the drum major instinct spreads across our lives. We’ve even elevated it into an ideology, defining success as the ability to beat our enemies and outshine our peers—as though self-obsessed competition will make us thrive.

This notion is both comically and tragically backward. Decades of evidence demonstrate that social connections sustain us. Chronic loneliness increases mortality risk about as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We flourish not by besting others, but by being part of something greater than ourselves. By clamoring for status, we deprive ourselves of one thing that would actually help us—each other.”

Psychologist Jennifer Crocker and her colleagues asked freshman college students about their social goals. Some cared most about making a good impression: showcasing their strengths and hiding their weaknesses. Although this might appear to be a wise strategy among young adults sizing one another up, it wasn’t.

The more students focused on themselves, the more lonely, depressed and anxious they became, and anxiety, in turn, made students worry even more about their image.

Zaki writes, “Scratching the itch of their drum major instinct, they made it worse.”

The drum major instinct is poison, but there is an antidote. Zaki calls it the drummer’s instinct: an urge not to lead the parade, but to be part of it—in rhythm with others, creating something together that no one could alone. The drum major instinct zooms us in on ourselves, but the drummer’s instinct drives us to care for our bandmates, and it runs deep. HM, being a former drummer who marched in bands with a drum major, really appreciates this analogy. Zaki continues, “young children crave attention, but they also prefer kindness over cruelty, and spontaneously help others in need.”

Crocker measured not just the college students’ desire to stand out but also to be kind. Students who held these “compassionate goals” suffered less depression and loneliness. They received more support from their peers, but that is not what predicted their well-being. Those who helped others were more likely to thrive.

Zaki reports, “Children and adults draw joy from helping others. Doctors who feel compassion for their patients burn out less often. Colleagues who support one another perform more effectively and are more fulfilled at work. And older adults who volunteer live longer and remain healthier than those who don’t.

Given this uncontroversial evidence, why do we still want to be drum majors”? Zaki gives two reasons.

“Individualistic cultures like ours valorize selfish pursuits, and then teach us—wrongly—that whether we like it or not, selfishness is at our core. This turns up the volume on our desire for attention, making the drummer’s instinct harder to hear.”

“”People often help others to help themselves. We give to charity for that rush of “warm glow,” or to confirm our character in moments of doubt. We advertise our virtues by changing our profile picture, or donating just enough to get our names on the opera house wall. These acts are generous on the surface, but hide the drum major instinct underneath.”

There is a healthy memory blog post titled “Trump vs. a Buddhist Monk” that argues that the Buddhist Monk lives a happier and more fulfilling life than Donald Trump. Should you not agree with this title, please read this post.

“Eudaimonic” means conducive to happiness. There will be many future posts on this topic.