From The London Times:
STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS by Daniel Gilbert, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
by Darrin McMahon and THE HAPPINESS HYPOTHESIS by Jonathan Haidt.
We should all be working about two days a week, earning just enough to get by, and spending the rest of the time with friends, family, or even “wearing paper hats and eating pistachio macaroons in the bathtub”. We would be genuinely happier for it. Our gross overoptimism is also a kind of meme: 90% of us believe we are better-than-average drivers, for instance, when, of course almost all of us are, by definition, average drivers. We are “hopelessly Panglossian”. It’s nice to know that happier people are also kinder. One psychologist handed out biscuits to certain passers-by, and then had an accomplice drop a stack of papers in the street. Those still merrily scoffing their free biscuits were far more likely to stop and help than others.
One of the most honest and fascinating sections is on Buddhism. Gautama Siddartha, you may recall, decided the world was a place of unmitigated suffering and unhappiness, to be escaped at all costs, after he first encountered old, sick and poverty-stricken people. Only recently did a sharp American psychologist, Robert Biswas-Diener, say, “But hang on — did he ever get down from his gilded chariot and ask those people if they were unhappy?” So he went to India himself. He even questioned sex workers in the back streets of Calcutta, surely the most wretched of the earth. “No,” they said, “we’re mostly quite happy, thanks.” How can this be? Well, compare it with the experience of paraplegia. Calcutta’s prostitutes are dirt poor, but then money doesn’t make you happy. Having intense friendships, close-knit families and neighbourhoods certainly does: and that’s just what they have. Bye-bye Buddhism. (Picture: The Jolly Fisherman).