Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Seek ye first..."

In a review of Perpetual Euphoria by Pascal Bruckner Thomas Meaney concludes that happiness is not achieved by seeking it:
.... Once upon a time in the West, the pursuit of happiness was not the chief end of life. Parents did not lose sleep over their children's prospects for self-fulfillment; instead they raised them to be burden-bearing members of their community. Christian doctrine stressed that human beings inhabited a fallen world in which satisfaction was postponed. Not only were pain and agony not to be avoided, they were, at times, opportunities to come closer to God. ....

.... Mr. Bruckner claims that the Christian attitude to pain contained the seeds of its own undoing. Many Christians naturally desired to hasten the coming of the Messiah, who would deliver them from their earthly torment. During the French Revolution, this urgent desire was secularized into utopian designs—as when idealists like Robespierre tried to eliminate the misery of the ancien regime and remake society in accordance with republican virtue. But for Mr. Bruckner, as much as for Edmund Burke, any attempt to usher in a reign of felicity will be marked by folly—and may well create new forms of misery. ....

Ultimately, Mr. Bruckner himself comes across as neither a stoic who advocates giving up on happiness nor a sentimentalist who thinks pain has some intrinsic or artistic value. We are only happy, he believes, in spite of the suffering around us, and only for rare, unexpected and often inexplicable moments. Happiness, he implies, may not be as important as qualities like lucidity and dignity. But if you really want it, the best way to find it is not to care too much about it. [more]
You know, these are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness.
It's not happiness or unhappiness, it's either blessed or unblessed.
As the Bible says, "Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly."

Bob Dylan

Book Review: Perpetual Euphoria - WSJ.com