Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

see also What is Happiness/Wat Is Geluk?

http://derrenbrown.co.uk/

Derren Brown, the magician, mentalist, entertainer, has recently published a new book: Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine, Bantam Press, September 2016.

A Sunday newspaper reviewer of the book that I read was being either deliberately obtuse, or just plain ignorant in his write-up.

If I was to ask you what you thought of happiness, 10 to 1 you would say something like I did: something to do with fun, friends, good times.
Lack of worries comes into it. Control of one’s life is not something occurs immediately, but it is what it mostly amounts to also.  And also, as the current mood has it, of giving up that control if the fun-factor is high enough.
In other words our ideas of happiness are mostly tied up in the life-style tropes that ads feed us. At the heart of the marketing is this equation:

Happiness = Wealth, Youth, Health
In that order.

We can only be happy if we have plenty of money.
We can only be happy if we are young.
Health, well, we need that to do and enjoy all the extreme sports, the trail hikes, the yachting? we see as necessary to be happy.
Because happiness is, to use a metaphor, about bungee jumping into excitement, extreme experiences. Preferably somewhere sunny, hot: a tropical setting.

So, what did Derren Brown say happiness is? The reviewer pinned it down as something like ‘constant contentment.’
Couldn’t be more different.
All excitement – slippers and cocoa.

Derren Brown wrote how he hates being a magician – he has seen the reception side of trickery and it’s no fun. He hates the big production showman deals. He admires the skill, the craft, oh yes, but it’s the message. Or the lack of message. The message is usually Admire Me! Or production-line entertainment.

Derren Brown is a thinker; for him everything must have a meaning, a purpose.
His latest shows in particular, have all been to do with empowerment. That is, empowerment of people, ordinary people: the passive audience, who have stumped up the money for the travel and the show.

In his latest show MIRACLE, he implores the audience to consider their moment in time, their uniqueness; to consider the miracle of their genetic heritage and the millions of risks and successes throughout millennia that have led from the beginnings of life itself, to themselves at that precise moment. How they are all part of that.
It is, he says, miracle on miracle we are here , and also here now in this theatre.

For Derren Brown happiness is not what we have been sold.
We desperately need another narrative than the one we have taken on board without realising, and on which we still base our ideas of fulfillment, success, happiness.
He wants to provide an alternative narrative.

His narrative is by no means The Answer.
His narrative is meant as a corrective to the Wealth,Youth, Health equation.

Happiness is not about spending loads of cash.
Happiness is not all about running around on tropical beaches.
Happiness is not about being a morally vacuous and patronising vacationer, in places where locals are in awe of out Western ways, our wealth. OK, that last bit’s mine.

The narrative he is putting across could well be the one we need most in post-Brexit Britain.
It is about valuing what we have, our uniqueness, our quirkiness, our ‘character.’
It is appreciating what is in front of us, around us, here, now.
And it is not about hopelessly, endlessly yearning  for that other that costs so much in money, air-pollution, and political and cultural harm to other countries. And that bit’s mine, too.

Derren Brown’s book is about the need to re-evaluate, re-think, re-consider ourselves, our lives, our communities, our world, and our places in the world.

 

 

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WHAT IS HAPPINESS/ Wat Is Geluk?

Because happiness is a memory
it exists because at the same time
the reverse is also true
……………………………………………………………

 ………………… I mean this: happiness
must exist somewhere at some time because
 we remember it and it reminds us. 

Rutger Kopland (Until It Lets Us Go, 1997)

1

A circling argument, circular reasoning; he is attempting to capture here the processes of actual experience. It is a meld between learnt things ie the particular blends that give the sense of well-being, and the sense of already existing well-being within the person.

And notice that it is one long sentence. Is it a sentence? It’s more properly described as a gestalt, a knot of argument.

Maybe we have a harking back here to something like R D Laing’s collections of problems in his book Knots:

They are playing a game. They are playing at not
playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I
shall break the rules and they will punish me.
I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.

But this seems to be a different order, similar, but different. Unless, the difference is in the ambience that translation gives. James Brockway’s translation of the poem here is more a kind of, what he called, a collaboration: both writer and translator find the most appropriate new terms with which to convey the original poem.

What Kopland is doing here is expressing the thinking processes of emotion. That is, emotion in a broad sense.

2

There have been times in my own life I have forgotten what various things look like. One of them has been happiness. Many of us know this – if you haven’t you most probably will. Wait, especially until some loved one dies.

What was it Brecht said? The Happy man has not heard the bad news yet.
I quoted that to a colleague once and they asked in all seriousness what the bad news was.  What can you say!

To forget happiness. We all assume it is our right as a human being. That we are entitled to it, and to go to extraordinary lengths to gain, retain, or find it.
And yet it can be lost.

That last stanza in particular of the poem makes perfect sense: we have a capacity for it, or have developed one, therefore it is something we must need.
And let’s admit a life without happiness is not much of a life.
But is this just because we feel we are no longer getting our usual quota, whether it is necessary for us or not? Can we live a full life without  it?
To have ring-fenced what is necessary for a life; how narrow is that space? Or how over-big?

And then if we look back to, say, St Augustine, and his Confessions, we come across… someone overfond of describing themselves, of wallowing in their own specialness. But we also come across Chapter Ten.
What is Chapter ten? It is where he contemplates Memory.

Subsection 8 of chapter 10 begins: So I must also go beyond this natural faculty of mine… The next stage is memory, which is like a great field or a spacious palace, a storehouse for countless images of all kinds….

And if that isn’t a description of a memory system, then I don’t know what is! Those of us familiar with Patrick Jane from The Mentalist, will recognise the reference to the ‘memory palace’ in this, that he constantly goes on about.

Memory contains, says Augustine, amongst everything else we know, what we know as happiness. The chapter description reads –  Since all men long for happiness, they must know in some way what it is…

Even the phrasing seems to be echoed in the Kopland poem. Augustine’s reasoning in the chapter, subsection 20, runs:
Am I to seek it in memory, as though I had forgotten it but still remembered that I had forgotten it?

It seems what is being considered in all this is whether happiness is a constant presence in our psyches, or a memory of, say, well-being, that we had once, and constantly refer to when we mean ‘happiness’.

This last bit reminds me of so many things we value, that in actuality were singular and temporary, limited occurances.

We constantly hark back to happier times in our lives, which we then project onto our environment, society, history, culture. These were probably a few days/months/at most a few years when certain pleasure chemicals took precedence in our lives, and we were able to live almost blissfully.

I’ve heard people in the UK recall the 1950’s as ‘good times’, yet when we look at those times they were pitifully bad in most respects.

A general loss of energy and with it the capacity to take on the multiplicity of thought and experience, leaves a simplified, narrowed and shallow picture: a ring-fenced concept .

3

I am interested in moving forward, or, as a ‘forward’ probably doesn’t exist, opening up the present more and more.

Against this is a constant reference to what are thought to be past glories (: Jerusalem – see last posting); someone’s glory is someone else’s defeat. But also there is the meld between the victor and the defeated, that accounts for some of the sense of difference that victory brings.

I still maintain that what Kopland was investigating, especially in his later work, was a Phenomenological stance.
Phenomenology kind of grew out of european existentialism, the work of Husserl.

You find with modern Phenomenolgy this constant vacillating between one’s idea of one’s body in the world, that we get from sensory feedback, and the brain’s sense of  self’s existence, that is maybe generated from sheer sense of itself functioning.
This can lead to a looped vacillation; but there is this extra ingredient, and that is our being’s sense of… curiosity, for want of a better term. It is this keeps us going on.

One thing that seems to move us on better than most, is a sense of fun, play.

Bring on the fun!

I would have dearly loved a picture of Snoopy from Charlie Brown here, you know the skipping, gleeful ones?Copyright.