Wednesday 17th of April 2024

more happiness for your bucks?...


Ross Gittins "How to get more happiness per dollar" is a bit bland. If you are a "creative" person (like me — I hope I am, but who knows, I could be the "master of the fake" as some of my mates call me), you might end up in an asylum for blancmanged bogans, should you follow "his" advice based on a study by three US psychologists... Ah, no less than three US diplomed dudes:


"The professionals who study the relationship between money and happiness are the psychologists. And three of them, Elizabeth Dunn, Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson, of the universities of British Columbia, Harvard and Virginia respectively, have published, in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, a useful guide to their profession's finding on how to get more satisfaction from your spending."


Yes knowing how to savour your hard-earned bucks better is part of happiness — but following the mob mentality?:


"Their final tip is another odd one: follow the herd instead of your head. Research suggests that the best way to predict how much we will enjoy an experience is not to evaluate its characteristics ourselves, but to see how much other people liked it."



May as well shoot myself now. Hold it. Being part of the mob does not mean being mind-dead, does it? As a creative person, I am always looking for the escape hatch or the ladder from which I can survey the real world, away from the cattle and the cattle-prods... I hope that to a certain level, Gittins was a bit sarcastic about "this study", but, who knows, he is an economist...


My own study of happiness — which was published on this site about 10 years ago and written nearly 30 year ago was designed for people like me: creative, inventive, on the look-out... It is based on the stylistic development of natural mechanics of active/reactive levers of aggressiveness and submissiveness. People who are creative (me!) are often on the cusp of depression, despair and distress. Creativity is highly demanding especially when avoiding the old pathways, the old styles and the laziness. This is why I invented positive anger then — turning "anger" into a positive creative force.


Here is is again:


Preliminary exploration of happiness

Happiness is a dynamic complex emotion which derives from our acknowledgement of successful activities and reactivities. It is generated as we experience some accidental encounters, random events, sought-after results and cultural participation—all of which involve basic animal contentment. Although success at work and monetary gains can help generate happiness, it is usually the perceived quality of our attitude in our relationships, including the one with our self, which capitalise our successes into greater long-lasting happiness.

For the human species, life has developed way beyond mere survival. We have generated many social identities, as groups and sub-groups, using many concepts and tools in which we believe, including languages, religions, cultural traditions, technologies, sciences, money, arts and many more. These are stylistic interpretations of life. 
    It is through style rather than survival that we have modified natural reactivity into activity. Human stylistic interpretations are adaptive extensions of our complex memory in reaction to the environment. We make a stylistic choice when faced with several solutions presenting equal satisfactory result.  
    This is why stylistic interpretations do differ between groups of people and also why they can conflict within one single group. In short our ability to make an active stylistic choice is the most important part of human evolution. Yet choices can be influenced by many reactive factors, some relevant some not. This why we have to learn how to make the best active choices, and recognise the value of some reactive choices in certain situations.
        Like our other stylistic interpretations, happiness is a strong stylistic enhanced emotion, towards sublimation, of animal contentment, which in itself is the resultant of successful survival. This is why, as humans, there are many ways in which we can discover, feel or express happiness. 
         Not-surprisingly, many points of views about happiness have been expressed in contradictory, obscure and comparative manners... For example in some religious beliefs, while it is not a sin to be happy, pain and suffering are better rewarded, in a glorified after-life, than contentment. This has led to strange behaviours such as self-flagellation, auto-mutilation and martyrdom. Contrary to natural reactive balances of pain and pleasure, these beliefs encourage suffering, and distance us from care in our natural environment. 

    Here are a few points of view which have defined happiness:
    Content is happiness.
    Children and fools have merry lives
    It is comparison that makes men happy or miserable
    Sadness and gladness succeed each other
    Ignorance is bliss
    Happiness is in the mind
    Happiness comes not until sorrow is gone
    Money does not buy happiness
    Happy go lucky
    Happy like a pig in shit

We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
                            THOMAS JEFFERSON

    Not in Utopia—subterranean fields,— 
    Or some secreted island, Heavens knows where!
    But in the very world, which is the world
    Of all of us, —the place where in the end
    We find our happiness, or not at all!

                            WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

The object of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or of races, but in the happiness of the common man.
                            WILLIAM LORD BEVERIDGE

Oh! How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes. 
                            WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE 

Happiness is a good bank account, a good cook, and a good digestion.
                            JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU

As naive and crude as the last quote appears, Jean-Jacques Rousseau expresses an interesting view of happiness. Applied to a modern society, happiness is reached on three interactive fronts: first when we are wealthy—a good bank account, second when we are aware of the importance of others, in Rousseau’s case—his cook, and third when we are in good health, in his words—a good digestion...

Healthy, wealthy and relating wisely
Indeed health and wealth provide two sound platforms for happiness, but acting life through reciprocated caring relationships — including the relationship with our self, appreciating the fact that we exist as we are—is the multiplying factor of happiness. We value our relationships with our self, our family, friends and partners more than anything else. We get hurt when these relationships falter for whatever reason. 
        Made of flesh born of its environment, we react to it. For example, love and compassion can be magnified by physical contact such as touch, cuddles and embraces. The reciprocity of sexual experience greatly surpasses personal gratification, yet personal gratification is not unnatural. Ultimately our mind is the place where acceptance happens. A great part of creativity is acceptance, including acceptance of diversity, existing as well as un-expressed yet. A ‘soul partnership’ generates with minimum effort because the stylistic interpretations of respective partners are at similar level of understanding—in some cases, even with cultural differences—in genetically constructed compatible framework. The combination includes intelligence (our ability to capture stylistic interpretations of life) as well as smell, voice and appearances. In a word, we click. Any further relationship developments still need to be creatively managed.
    In the management of health, wealth and relationships, we are influenced by our genetic trends, our perceptions, our sense of discovery, the uncertainty of events such as accidents, other people's behaviour, our expectations, our habits, ultimately, our creative decisions—all part of, or relating to, our stylistic interpretations.
    In our childhood we learn basic stylistic interpretations in a mostly empirical dictatorial manner. Should we be depressed, now is the time to refocus or modify these interpretation through new tooling processes which include deliberate curiosity and tricks, which have made some of us more successful than others.

To self-care or not to self-care...
Relatively wealthy, we care by eating the right food and by being active such as training at the gym (Walking is better, though)... We also enjoy great relationships. We are making the right decisions while being alert to dangers and valuing what we have and create. We are on top of the world. 
    Some of us are not happy because we go through life like driving through fog. We have no clear understanding of what we have or who we are. We rely on habits to survive. We are lucky if we do not get hurt. We should realise that our stylistic interpretations of life are too weak to provide us with anything greater than basic contentment, but usually cultivate disenchantment.
    Some of us are somewhat happy while being ignorant. We don’t want to know. Knowledge can be painful if it is not well managed. Thus happiness is hemmed in by reality or destroyed by traumatic events. We need to know more by becoming creatively curious.
    Some of us have not cared much, considering the risks we take. We have not cared much about any one, except on our own terms—for ownership, for status or for sexual gratification. Power is gained by physical strength, deceit or tactical authority rather than by care.
Love, trust and respect generate form caring reciprocity in relationship. In order to be caring, we do not have to abandon risk taking, nor do we have to wilt from the difficulties of competition, but we adapt and modify our attitudes to enjoy improved relationships. We need to be aware that stylistic interpretations of life inevitably contain illusions—self-delusions or socially engineered illusions—which make us react rather than act. 
    Creatively, we do not have to perform at warp speed at all time to generate permanent happiness. Happiness happens and is maintained incrementally. There are times for maximum thrust in creation, yet there are times for rest, peace, reflection and recreation in order to avoid burn out and losing track of the multi-faceted reality.

A short-cut manual
Experiencing happiness from a distressed or depressed position needs some effort. Here are 36 simple study points that can help us refocus our motivation to achieve and maintain happiness:

Where are we at now?                    
        1.    have we made the decision to seek happiness?
        2.    assess our present and past position
        3.    know self-assets including talents
        4.    formulate or re-create goals, revalue dreams

Tuning the engine
        5.    manage bio-mechanical influences on mental states 
        6.    maintain and improve health
        7.    eliminate depression, avoid distress     
        8.    minimise fear, guilt and grief     
        9.    be in tune with sexuality, personal and in partnership

Consolidating bases
        10.    secure financial and psychological fall-back position
        11.    evaluate risks, recognise dangers, avoid accidents

        12.    make the decision to be conscious of reality
        13.    avoid drugs of addiction which modify consciousness 
        14.    be curious, seek discovery 
        15.    cultivate memory and foster imagination.
        16.    be creatively active 

        17.    avoid turning motivation into negative stress
        18.    enhance analysis and synthesis skills for problems solving
        19.    be adaptable to change 
        20.    increase success rate
        21.    value success, own and that of others
        22.    know when to control and when to let go
        23.    be strongly focused without being destructively obsessive

Relationships, partnerships or marriages
        24.    be alert to manipulations of others and of our own
        25.    be aware of responsibilities, impact of decisions and choices
        26.    be aware of individuality
        27.    care for others, value compassion and justice
        28.    eradicate violence without eliminating aggressiveness
        29.    be receptive without submission
        30.    improve relationships with women and men
        31.    maximise reciprocal bonding between self and partner

A life in the universe
        32.    be demonstratively assertive through personal attitude
        34.    discover and appreciate natural events and patterns
        35.    develop stylistic creativity without prejudicial beliefs. 
        36.    enjoy life


Gus Leonisky

Your local revolutionary.


please see also: money, love and friendship...


Rousseau was a chauvinistic pig:


reimagining the human...

Earth is in the throes of a mass extinction event and climate change upheaval, risking a planetary shift into conditions that will be extremely challenging, if not catastrophic, for complex life (1). Although responsibility for the present trajectory is unevenly distributed, the overarching drivers are rapid increases in (i) human population, (ii) consumption of food, water, energy, and materials, and (iii) infrastructural incursions into the natural world. As the “trends of more” on all these fronts continue to swell, the ecological crisis is intensifying (24). Given that human expansionism is causing mass extinction of nonhuman life and threatening both ecological and societal stability, why is humanity not steering toward limiting and reversing its expansionism?

The rational response to the present-day ecological emergency would be to pursue actions that will downscale the human factor and contract our presence in the realm of nature. Yet in mainstream institutional arenas, economic, demographic, and infrastructural growth are framed as inevitable, while technological and management solutions to adverse impacts are pursued single-mindedly. Although pursuing such solutions is important, it is also clear that reducing humanity's scale and scope in the ecosphere is the surest approach to arresting the extinction crisis, moderating climate change, decreasing pollution, and providing sorely needed leeway to tackle problems of poverty, food insecurity, and forced migration (5). The question that arises is why the approach of contracting the human enterprise tends to be ignored.

The answer lies in the deeper cause of the ecological crisis: a pervasive worldview that imbues the trends of more with a cachet of inevitability and legitimacy. This worldview esteems the human as a distinguished entity that is superior to all other life forms and is entitled to use them and the places they live. The belief system of superiority and entitlement—or human supremacy—manifests in a range of anthropocentric commonplace assumptions, linguistic constructs, institutional regimes, and everyday actions of individual, group, nation-state, and corporate actors (6). For example, the human is invested with powers of life and death over all other beings and with the prerogative to control and manage all geographical space. The all-encompassing manifestation of the belief system of human supremacy is precisely what constitutes it as a worldview.

This worldview is not necessarily an explicitly articulated narrative. Rather, it forms the tacit postulate from which people source meaning and justification to disregard virtually any limitation of action or way of life in the ecosphere and toward nonhumans. Human supremacy is the underlying big story that normalizes the trends of more, and the consequent displacements and exterminations of nonhumans—as well as of humans who oppose that worldview (78). In this context, it is crucial to recognize that human supremacy is neither culturally nor individually universal, nor is it derived in any straightforward way from human nature. However, western civilization has elaborated its most forceful, long-standing expression, and through the West's ascendancy the influence of this worldview has spread across the globe (9).

Blind to the Wisdom of Limitations

The planetwide sense of entitlement bequeathed by a supremacist worldview blinds the human collective to the wisdom of limitations in several ways, thereby hindering efforts to address the ecological crisis by downscaling the human enterprise and withdrawing it from large portions of land and sea.

First, because the worldview demotes the nonhuman in favor of the human, it blocks the human mind from recognizing the intrinsic existence and value of nonhumans and their habitats. Nonhumans are rendered as resources and considered dispensable or killable; it is assumed that natural areas can be taken over and converted at will.


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writing the truth: five difficulties...

when happiness is more gold and less dollars...

The Central Bank of Russia has moved further away from reliance on the US dollar and has axed its share in the country’s foreign reserves to a historic low, transferring about $100 billion into euro, Japanese yen and Chinese yuan.

The share of the US currency in Russia’s international reserves portfolio has dramatically decreased in just three months between March and June 2018, from 43.7 percent to a new low of 21.9 percent, according to the Central Bank’s latest quarterly report, which is issued with a six-month lag.

The money pulled from the dollar reserves was redistributed to increase the share of the euro to 32 percent and the share of Chinese yuan to 14.7 percent. Another 14.7 percent of the portfolio was invested in other currencies, including the British pound (6.3 percent), Japanese yen (4.5 percent), as well as Canadian (2.3 percent) and Australian (1 percent) dollars.

The Central Bank's total assets in foreign currencies and gold increased by $40.4 billion from July 2017 to June 2018, reaching $458.1 billion.


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when sadness is a red robe...


Why new things make us sad


In 1769, in Paris, a French philosopher Denis Diderot described how a new, luxurious red dressing gown made him miserable rather than happy. The cause of that unhappiness is still being examined by psychologists and marketing professionals some 250 years later. A film by Brendan Miller.


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Diderot was the son of a widely respected master cutler. He was tonsured in 1726, though he did not in fact enter the church, and was first educated by the Jesuits [see also:  a little Langres. From 1729 to 1732 he studied in Paris at the Collège d’Harcourt or at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand or possibly at both these institutions, and he was awarded the degree of master of arts in the University of Paris on Sept. 2, 1732. He then studied law as an articled clerk in the office of Clément de Ris but was more interested in languages, literaturephilosophy, and higher mathematics. Of his life in the period 1734 to 1744 comparatively little is known. He dropped an early ambition to enter the theatre and, instead, taught for a living, led a penurious existence as a publisher’s hack, and wrote sermons for missionaries at 50 écus each. At one time he seems to have entertained the idea of taking up an ecclesiastical career, but it is most unlikely that he entered a seminary. Yet his work testifies to his having gone through a religious crisis, and he progressed relatively slowly from Roman Catholicism to deism and then to atheism and philosophical materialism. That he led a disordered and bohemian existence at this time is made clear in his posthumously published novelLe Neveu de Rameau (Rameau’s Nephew). He frequented the coffeehouses, particularly the Régence and the Procope, where he met the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1741 and established a friendship with him that was to last for 15 years, until it was broken by a quarrel. [See also:]

In 1741 he also met Antoinette Champion, daughter of a linendraper, and in 1743 he married her—secretly, because of his father’s disapproval. The relationship was based on romantic love, but the marriage was not a happy one owing to incompatible interests. The bond held, however, partly through a common affection for their daughter, Angélique, sole survivor of three children, who was born in 1753 and whom Diderot eventually married to Albert de Vandeul, a man of some standing at Langres. Diderot lavished care over her education, and she eventually wrote a short account of his life and classified his manuscripts.

In 1745 the publisher André Le Breton approached Diderot with a view to bringing out a French translation of Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopaedia, after two other translators had withdrawn from the project. Diderot undertook the task with the distinguished mathematician Jean Le Rond d’Alembert as coeditor but soon profoundly changed the nature of the publication, broadening its scope and turning it into an important organ of radical and revolutionary opinion. He gathered around him a team of dedicated litterateurs, scientists, and even priests, many of whom, as yet unknown, were to make their mark in later life. All were fired with a common purpose: to further knowledge and, by so doing, strike a resounding blow against reactionary forces in church and state. As a dictionnaire raisonné (“rational dictionary”), the Encyclopédie was to bring out the essential principles and applications of every art and science. The underlying philosophy was rationalism and a qualified faith in the progress of the human mind.

In 1749 Diderot published the Lettre sur les aveugles (An Essay on Blindness), remarkable for its proposal to teach the blind to read through the sense of touch, along lines that Louis Braille was to follow in the 19th century, and for the presentation of the first step in his evolutionary theory of survival by superior adaptation. This daring exposition of the doctrine of materialist atheism, with its emphasis on human dependence on sense impression, led to Diderot’s arrest and incarceration in the prison of Vincennes for three months. Diderot’s work on the Encyclopédie, however, was not interrupted for long, and in 1750 he outlined his program for it in a Prospectus, which d’Alembert expanded into the momentous Discours préliminaire (1751). The history of the Encyclopédie, from the publication of the first volume in 1751 to the distribution of the final volumes of plates in 1772, was checkered, but ultimate success was never in doubt. Diderot was undaunted by the government’s censorship of the work and by the criticism of conservatives and reactionaries. A critical moment occurred in 1758, on the publication of the seventh volume, when d’Alembert resigned on receiving warning of trouble and after reading Rousseau’s attack on his article “Genève.” Another serious blow came when the philosopher Helvétius’ book De l’esprit (“On the Mind”), said to be a summary of the Encyclopédie, was condemned to be burned by the Parlement of Paris, and the Encyclopédieitself was formally suppressed. Untempted by Voltaire’s offer to have the publication continued outside France, Diderot held on in Paris with great tenacity and published the Encyclopédie’s later volumes surreptitiously. He was deeply wounded, however, by the discovery in 1764 that Le Breton had secretly removed compromising material from the corrected proof sheets of about 10 folio volumes. The censored passages, though of considerable interest, would not have made an appreciable difference on the impact of the work. To the 17 volumes of text and 11 volumes of plates (1751–72), Diderot contributed innumerable articles partly original, partly derived from varied sources, especially on the history of philosophy (“Eclectisme” [“Eclecticism”]), social theory (“Droit naturel” [“Natural Law”]), aesthetics (“Beau” [“The Beautiful”]), and the crafts and industries of France. He was moreover an energetic general director and supervised the illustrations for 3,000 to 4,000 plates of exceptional quality, which are still prized by historians today. Philosophical and scientific works. While editing the Encyclopédie, Diderot managed to compose most of his own important works as well. In 1751 he published his Lettre sur les sourds et muets (“Letter on the Deaf and Dumb”), which studies the function of language and deals with points of aesthetics, and in 1754 he published the Pensées sur l’interprétation de la nature (“Thoughts on the Interpretation of Nature”), an influential short treatise on the new experimental methods in science. Diderot published few other works in his lifetime, however. His writings, in manuscript form, were known only to his friends and the privileged correspondents of the Correspondance littéraire, a sort of private newspaper edited by Baron Grimm that was circulated in manuscript form. The posthumous publication of these manuscripts, among which are several bold and original works in the sciences, philosophy, and literature, have made Diderot more highly appreciated in the 20th century than he was in France during his lifetime.

Among his philosophical works, special mention may be made of L’Entretien entre d’Alembert et Diderot (written 1769, published 1830; “Conversation Between d’Alembert and Diderot”), Le Rêve de d’Alembert (written 1769, published 1830; “D’Alembert’s Dream”), and the Eléments de physiologie (1774–80). In these works Diderot developed his materialist philosophy and arrived at startling intuitive insights into biology and chemistry; in speculating on the origins of life without divine intervention, for instance, he foreshadowed the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin and put forth a strikingly prophetic picture of the cellular structure of matter. Though Diderot’s speculations in the field of science are of great interest, it is the dialectical brilliance of their presentation that is exceptional. His ideas, often propounded in the form of paradox, and invariably in dialogue, stem from a sense of life’s ambiguities and a profound understanding of the complexities and contradictions inherent in human nature.

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"poverty is your problem"...

Ending poverty doesn’t seem to be a top priority for British MPs, as only 14 of them showed up to attend a parliamentary debate on the UN report urging the government to address the burning problem.

MPs were supposed to debate the findings of a United Nations report on ‘Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in Northern Ireland’ on Monday, but the House of Commons remained almost empty as the debate got underway.

Labour MP Liz McInnes, who did show up, accused the Conservative Party government of showing disdain towards the poor and said that the United States had shown similar disinterest when the UN highlighted poverty there.

“I know that we have a special relationship with the United States, but I think it shames us all that we share that disdain,” McInnes said.

UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty Professor Philip Alston said in November that the level of poverty in the UK risked causing damage to “the fabric of British society” and accused the Conservative government of favoring policies that compounded poverty levels in one of the richest countries in the world. The report said that the level of child poverty in particular in Britain was “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster.”

READ MORE: ‘Punitive, mean-spirited & often callous’: UN tears apart legacy of austerity in UK

Alston said that while the British government focuses on an impending exit from the European Union, it has treated poverty as an “afterthought” — an accusation which seems to be supported by the minimal attendance at Monday’s debate.

There was no sign of Theresa May or even new Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, who sent a junior minister in her place.


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Happy poverty...

compassion is your problem...

Suicides among veterinarians are becoming a growing problem
Faced with debt, compassion fatigue and social media attacks from angry pet owners, veterinarians are committing suicide at rates higher than the general population, often killing themselves with drugs meant for their patients.

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we "all" try to push our barrow full of bricks...

Here "all" means the average person like me who enjoys the happiness of being alive... There are geezers and geezerettes who plod without asking questions, possibly because they know the answers are "more complicated". That's fair enough. So, we are going to be blessed with the debate of the century: Zizek versus Peterson. The first thing that comes to mind (my mind) to prepare for this philosophic fight is to read "of shampooing and the art of symmetrical anthropology"... and of cash, spray-cans and the doorway to culture... But there are plenty more...

Of course we cannot go pass without noting:

or the more recent:

when male philosphers are less than human towards their fellow female "with fake news"...


The list of stuff like this is long...


the magic pill...

The Jordan Peterson Show has rolled into town with a bag full of nostrums about how to cope with life – stand up straight, clean your teeth, make your bed, don’t pinch the milk money et cetera.

What he’s peddling could be a mixture of Dale Carnegie and Billy Graham with a sprinkle of Miss Piggy. A lot of it feels like wading through suet. He’s also a bit scratchy, getting into a huff with a young woman on Q&A who thought his ideas were “banal”.

Naturally, there was the obligatory buttery interview with him in The Catholic Boys Daily.

No doubt about it, the man is popular and that could be the problem. Popular remedies for complex problems. For instance, he gave a little lecture to the Q&Aaudience about individual identity and group identity.

“If you’re a proponent, for example, of equality of outcome, of quotas, then you de facto accept the proposition that it’s the group identity that is primary, and there’s all sorts of dangers that are associated with that, that far outweigh whatever good you’re likely to do.”

Hang about. Doesn’t this obscure the complexity of the human experience, that we’re all capable of several iterations, that humans are complex and fluid, within groups and as individuals, and that de facto we aren’t necessarily wedded to the acceptance of anything?

Still, if you’re buying magic potions, complexity is not what you want to hear.


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this could be why...


From Rod dreher:


Peterson spoke earlier in the conversation about how he was once interviewed by a reporter from the NYT who said she had never considered that there was any way to read literature and the humanities except the postmodernist, deconstructivist way. This is the way of death — the death of a culture, and the dissolution of the human person.

If I keep watching Peterson, I’m sure I’ll eventually get to something objectionable, but I gotta tell you, it’s so inspiring to watch a teacher who really does seem to care about his students, and how knowledge can rescue them from chaos. Shoot, I’m 52 years old, and have been a committed, intellectually informed Christian for half my life now, and Peterson’s lectures are helping me think my way through a difficult problem. The idea that a university like Cambridge would shun him because he was photographed with a troll at a public event, without giving him (Peterson) an opportunity to explain himself — well, it shows that Cambridge is afraid of Jordan Peterson. It’s interesting to think about why.


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This could be why:




of happiness...



Starting in 1938, the study tracked hundreds of men — some privileged, others not — for 80 years in a bid to work out what made them thrive, what made them successful, what made them happy. Every few years researchers would ask the men about their goals and aspirations, their marriages, work life, social activities, and they'd also monitor their physical health.

"Our biggest finding, and the one that surprised us the most, was that the happiest people were the people who had good close relationships with other people," says Dr Waldinger.

Other people, you say? And here I was thinking that if I just attained enough wealth, if I just attained enough social status, if I just read The Art of Happiness by His Holiness and former Masterchef guest judge (true story!) the Dalai Lama, if I just self-actualised, if I just followed my dream, if I just meditated more, if I just got rid of my possessions, if I just burnt all my hair in ritual sacrifice to the Sun God… if I just did all of these things then I'd be happy, not realising that my happiness might not actually be about me, me, me.

"One of the things we found is that feeling like there are people in the world who really have your back, who will be your safety net, that matters a whole lot for not just happiness, but for health," says Dr Waldinger.

"The good life is built with good relationships. Period."

But what does it mean to have "good relationships"?

Well, you're going to roll your eyes at me because it's a cliche, but the key to strong, healthy and prosperous relationships comes down to one thing: good communication, and not just when things are going badly but always.


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My own study of happiness — which was published on this site about 12 years ago and written nearly 35 year ago (as part of a major work telling my "60 years of managing positive creativity") was designed for people like me: creative, inventive, on the look-out... It is based on the stylistic development of natural mechanics of active/reactive levers of aggressiveness and submissiveness. People who are creative (Me! You!) are often on the cusp of depression, despair and distress. Success (acceptance of your own achievements) is hard work. Creativity is highly demanding especially when avoiding the old pathways, the old styles and the laziness. This is why I invented positive anger then in the 1960s — turning "anger" into a positive creative force.


And GOOD relationships are much part of this... And I had to work hard at this one...


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happy birthday...

Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, whom many consider a life guru, encountered severe difficulties over the past year. His wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he developed a physical addiction to the prescription drug benzodiazepine; the illness nearly cost him his life, according to his daughter Mikhaila. 

Jordan Peterson, author of the bestselling ’12 Rules for Life’, turned 58 on Friday and his fans, friends and close ones could not miss a chance to share some sweet birthday messages with the professor, craving for his return to public life and lecturing. Jordan Peterson’s daughter Mikhaila, however, not only published a touching post celebrating her dad’s birthday a but also shared a snap featuring her sitting alongside her famous father.

“I know the last year has been the most difficult year of your life. I also know that you’re going to take the next year by storm,” Mikhaila captioned the post.

“The future is full of opportunity and hope and I’m so fortunate to be able to be there with you to experience it. Thank you for everything you’ve taught me - particularly to not feel sorry for yourself”, the outspoken promoter of the 'Lion Diet' wrote.


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Happy birthday, Jordan... Take it easy...


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update on diderot...


Why Jean Meslier matters

Max Fawcett|2020 November 9|Featured, Probes


You’ve probably heard the aphorism about freedom coming only when the last priest’s entrails are used to strangle the last king. If you’re particularly familiar with it, you might think that it was written by a French Enlightenment-era philosopher named Denis Diderot. You’d be wrong, but it’s far from the only time that history has failed to properly record the contributions of its real author, which in this instance was a 17th century Catholic priest named Jean Meslier who is perhaps the most overlooked and misunderstood intellectual figure in modern history.

Meslier is barely a footnote to that history today, but he deserves better than that. As British journalist Colin Brewer wrote in a 2007 article in the New Humanist, “Meslier was arguably the first to put his name to an incontrovertibly atheist document.” What makes that document even more interesting, and the cultural obscurity of its author all the more confounding, is the fact that Meslier spent most of his life serving as a Catholic priest.

Meslier was born in Mazerny, France, a small village in the Ardennes region of the country, in 1664. He joined the seminary as a young man, and on January 7, 1689, he became the priest at Étrépigny, in nearby Champagne. Except for a running dispute with a local nobleman that lived in his parish over the treatment of the poor, Meslier lived the same life of worship, public service and penury as other Catholic priests of his era. But there was one crucial difference between Meslier and other men of God: he spent the last ten years of his life producing a 633-page treatise against organized religion. “All the laws and orders that are issued in the name and authority of God or the gods are really only human inventions,” he wrote, “invented by shrewd and crafty politicians, afterward cultivated and multiplied by the false seducers and charlatans, then accepted blindly by the ignorant, and finally supported and authorized by the laws of the princes and rulers of the earth who used these human inventions to keep a tight rein on the community of men and do with them what they wanted.” Even the eternally caustic Christopher Hitchens would struggle to do better than that.

Meslier was well aware of the conflict between his private views on religion and his public duties. “I have had the displeasure of seeing myself in this annoying obligation of acting and speaking entirely against my own sentiments,” he wrote. “I have had the displeasure of keeping you in the stupid errors, the vain superstitions, and the idolatries that I hated, condemned, and detested to the core.” But, as he noted in his testament, the Church had recourse to the pyre, and he didn’t particularly feel like dying for his beliefs. Instead, he transcribed three copies of his testament and left them by his death bed, where they quickly made their way into what Brewer describes as “the lively world of illicit reproductions.”

His testament eventually found its way into other hands, and many of the ideas contained within it were borrowed – some have said plagiarized – by Voltaire some fifty years later in his own writings on the subject. Yet today, aside from the work of French scholar Michel Onfray, who wrote about Meslier in his 2007 book In Defence of Atheism, Meslier’s life remains a mystery to most of us. This is perplexing. By virtue of its ironic value alone, the story of a Catholic priest who made a convincing case against faith ought to be more widely told. But what makes Meslier’s anonymity most confounding is the fact that he is precisely what is missing from the stories that have been told by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and other prominent atheist authors in recent years: a hero.


I went in search of that hero, or at least some trace of his existence, this past summer. I suppose if I were a Christian or a Muslim or a member of another monotheistic faith I’d describe my trip as a pilgrimage. It was, after all, sufficiently excessive (and obsessive) to qualify as one, given that I had voluntarily left Paris – in June, no less – so that I could spend five hours navigating the treacherous French autoroutes on my way into the Ardennes in order to pay a visit to Mazerny, a village that had once been the home of a man I’d only read about.

My ambitions for the trip were modest. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to find Meslier’s grave, since he was buried in an unmarked plot on the property of descendents of a nobleman that he had quarreled with repeatedly during the course of his life – more irony – and I knew better than to expect any grand monuments to his existence in the town itself. But I had expected to at least find some trace of his existence, some thread to pull on. I was wrong. There was no Musee de Jean Meslier, no Rue Jean Meslier, and no mention of his existence on or near the town’s only church. This struck me as more than just an historical oversight. But even if his heresy had offended the town’s religious sensibilities, and they had decided to deliberately ignore his existence, it still didn’t add up. In a town with 78 official residents according to the most recent French census and a local economy that depended entirely on what the surrounding fields could provide, how could they afford to ignore him?

They weren’t ignoring me, though. Children stared from the second floor windows of their two-story brick houses, while the adults working in their gardens or trying to fix some thing or another in their garages looked up and monitored my rented Peugeot’s slow progress past their property. It was no wonder, given that it had probably been a long time since the people of Mazerny had seen a tourist in their town, much less one that wasn’t there in search of a restroom. I thought about trying to explain what I was there for but my French wasn’t nearly good enough to communicate my interest in the atheist who had lived in their village three centuries ago. After making three complete loops of the town and with dusk already on the horizon, I decided that it was time to look somewhere else for some clues.

I retreated to the commune of Poix-Terron, a town of a few hundred residents a few kilometers north that felt like New York City by comparison. I also needed to eat something, so I stopped in at what appeared to be the only restaurant on the town’s main drag, a family tavern that curiously advertised the fact that it sold pizza. Here, at least, I was more welcome, and the kindness of the family that ran the joint was sufficiently heartening and friendly that I decided to abuse them with my defective French. Had they heard of Jean Meslier, I asked? Did they know anything of this atheist priest that had lived just a few kilometres up the road from them? They huddled in order to translate both the meaning and intent of my unusual request. Eventually, the woman who ran the place came back to me with their answer. “Non,” she said. “Jamais.”


Meslier hasn’t always been invisible. In the early 20th century his legacy was conscripted by the Soviets, who saw it as a useful counterpoint to organized religion. They engraved his name on an obelisk that was erected in Moscow’s Red Square in 1919 along with other leading communist thinkers like Lenin, Engels, Charles Fourier and Jean Jaures, and treated him, for a time, as a significant philosopher. But they stopped talking about Meslier when it became clear that his could just as easily be seen as a role model for insurrectionary behaviour and anti-establishment thinking, values that conflicted with the unthinking servitude that the Soviet leadership demanded of its people. The obelisk was quietly moved to the Alexandrovsky Gardens, near the Middle Arsenal Tower of the Kremlin, in 1967 to make way for a timelier piece of propaganda, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

If his value to communist propagandists was obvious, his appeal to contemporary atheists ought to be even more so. Yet somehow, in spite of all the ink that’s been spilled in recent years on the subject, today’s atheists have all but ignored Jean Meslier. Colin Brewer, a British writer and dramatist who played Meslier in 2007’s The Last Priest, noted in a 2007 article that Meslier was even absent from two high-profile television documentaries on atheism, one of which was produced by Richard Dawkins. Brewer thinks this has a great deal to do with the fact that his work was both poorly circulated and widely borrowed against by atheist intellectuals who followed Meslier. There is Voltaire’s famous “Extract,” which Brewer says inaccurately described Meslier as “a fellow-deist and entirely suppressed Meslier’s anti-monarchist, proto-communist opinions.” Meanwhile, the definitive, annotated French edition of his testament did not appear until 1970, and until the 2009 publication of Michael Shreve’s Testament: Memoir of the Thoughts and Sentiments of Jean Meslier only fragmentary English translations could be found. Shreve’s translation, meanwhile, is ranked number 355,280 on Amazon’s best-sellers list. By way of comparison, Richard Dawkins’s “The God Delusion” checks in at number 700.

I had assumed that Meslier’s invisibility was an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon, and that in France I would find a more receptive environment for his message. Sure, I hadn’t found any pamphlets at Charles De Gaulle about Mazerny and Meslier, and there were no signs on the highway near the town indicating that a point of historical interest was nearby. But I had assumed that I would have been able to find some trace of his influence, some thread to tug on. How could somebody who ought to be so important remain so consistently invisible?

I spent most of the three-plus hour drive back towards Paris that same day – well, that evening – preoccupied with trying to resist the temptation to just close my eyes for a few seconds and keep my little Peugeot between the yellow lines. But in those moments where I wasn’t fighting to stay awake, I was trying to figure out what had just taken place in Mazerny. Okay, I thought, a small, rural French village probably isn’t the most appropriate environment for a shrine to an atheist apostate, but shouldn’t there have been something? Surely, some enterprising local resident would have realized that there was considerable monetary potential in branding the town as the home of Europe’s most outspoken atheist? But maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t a case of their ignoring him. Maybe they just didn’t need to remember. Life in Mazerny may not have been what I would want, but it was a pleasant, civilized town, in an undeniably beautiful part of the world. Maybe that was enough.

Contemporary atheist thinkers have no such excuse. Almost by the day, it seems, another unfathomably foul-smelling layer of the onion that is organized religion gets peeled back, and for all the notoriety that writers like Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have earned with their atheist treatises, the project to which they’re dedicated hasn’t made any detectable progress. In this environment, the story of a 17th century Catholic priest who quarreled with the church, stuck up for those being abused by the rich and powerful and eventually committed his ideas about the failure of religion and the promise of atheism to writing ought to be tremendously attractive.

So, too, should the testimony that this most unusual priest left behind, one that is at once more convincing and more inspirational than anything written on the subject in recent years. Meslier’s testimony aims at something greater than merely rejecting religion or describing its faults, the subjects to which today’s atheist writers seem to restrict themselves. Instead, it is a declaration of the moral and ethical virtues of a Godless existence: an atheist manifesto, in the best sense of the term. As Meslier wrote in his testament, “It has been long enough that the poor people have been so miserably abused by all kinds of idolatries and superstitions. It has been long enough that the rich and the rulers of the death have pillaged and oppressed the poor. It is time to deliver them from their miserable slavery. It is time to open their eyes everywhere and make them know the truth of things.”


There are some curious similarities between the approach taken by people like Dawkins and Hitchens and that of the Soviets a few generations back. It was the Soviets, after all, who set up museums of atheism in old eastern orthodox churches in an effort to undermine organized religion, and it’s clear that today’s secular spokespeople would do the same if they could get away with it. While the aims of today’s atheists are both more moderate and more moderating than those of their Soviet predecessors, they share the same basic conceit in thinking that if they accumulated enough evidence of organized religion’s misdeeds the faithful would eventually awaken and realize the error of their ways. But nobody will exchange something for nothing, even if that something is demonstrably flawed.

That’s where Jean Meslier ought to come in. For all the good work that professional atheists have done in highlighting the flaws of organized religion, they have done almost nothing to present an affirmative case for atheism. According to Michel Onfray, a French scholar who has worked diligently to revive Meslier’s legacy, he didn’t write his manifesto in the hopes of destroying Christianity but instead of replacing it. “Atheism does not constitute an end in itself but a beginning, a necessary base, an ethical foundation. Meslier negates the principle of God in order to arrive at a caring morality of a joyful body, of happy existence, of peaceful relations between beings and between sexes.”

Atheists, of course, are no more a monolith than any other cultural or religious group, but they do share some common beliefs. They respect the rights of individuals, freedom of thought and inquiry, the equality of all people, and an appreciation of natural and man-made wonders. Atheists don’t discriminate, they don’t withhold rights from particular groups, they don’t fear scientific progress and the frequently baffling explanations of the world it provides, they don’t wish for the end of the world, and they don’t insist upon imposing feelings of guilt and failure onto the thoughts and actions of others. Perhaps most importantly, atheists are engaged in the one life that they’re given rather than simply enduring it in anticipation of something better to come.

Meslier articulated all of this in his manifesto almost 300 years ago. His philosophy of “social hedonism,” Michel Onfray writes, “proposes the happiness of all and of each individual. Not an ideal happiness, but a real one, concrete, pragmatic: to work, by which people can eat healthfully and sufficiently all the time, live and sleep in a decent and heated house, be nourished, be clothed, have the means to educate their children, and be cared for in illness.”

Most atheists would resist the term, but it’s tempting all the same to describe Meslier as a prophet. In the same way that Jesus Christ’s apostles articulated the values and beliefs that form the foundation of contemporary Christianity, so too does Meslier’s manifesto serve as a template for all atheist thought that has followed. And like Christ himself, Meslier serves as a role model for those who share his beliefs, his life an example of how to be good and decent in a world that often isn’t. The key difference, of course, was that Meslier was completely, and contentedly, of this world.

Maybe that’s why Meslier continues to languish in obscurity. Atheists aren’t prone to idolatry, after all, and the idea of placing someone at the spiritual forefront of the movement would be anathema to many of them. Still, maybe it’s time for them – for us – to take a different approach, given the pitiful returns of our efforts so far. In a world where atheism ought to be making significant cultural inroads, it is instead barely able to hold its own. The odds of an openly atheist candidate getting elected to the highest office in the land in North America are about the same as those of an openly gay communist with a penchant for flag burning. With that in mind, maybe it’s time we found somebody to worship, to lead by example, to serve as an archetype for everything that’s good and decent about the non-religious life. I can’t think of a better candidate than Jean Meslier.


Edmonton – November 9, 2011


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GUS: It's likely that Diderot, publisher of the Encyclopedie, appropriated the quote for himself without malice.


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in regard to happiness...


Edward Diener, psychologist known as Dr Happiness, dies at 74


A curious and adventurous youngster, he said he once threw a stone at a swarm of bees to see what they would do. As a teenager, he climbed the Golden Gate Bridge and experimented with gunpowder, gasoline and fire.

His father wanted Edward to follow him into farming. But studying agriculture at Fresno State College (now California State University, Fresno) bored him and he became interested in psychology.

Before obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1968, he proposed a research project exploring the happiness of migrant farm workers, some of whom he knew from the family farm. But her teacher dismissed the idea, saying that farm workers as a group were unhappy and there was no way to measure happiness. Dr Diener therefore chose another topic: compliance.

A conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, Dr. Diener worked as an administrator in a small mental hospital before resuming his studies at the University of Washington, where he obtained a doctorate. in psychology in 1974. He soon joined the faculty of the University of Illinois.

As a graduate student and young professor, Dr Diener has carried out research on deindividuation, loss of self-awareness in groups. He didn’t study happiness until the early 1980s, a change he says was in part influenced by his optimistic parents.

“My mother introduced me to books such as ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ by Norman Vincent Peale, and it piqued my interest,” he said in an autobiographical essay written for the book “Journeys in Social Psychology “(2008), edited by Robert Levine, Lynnette Zelezny and Aroldo Rodrigues. “My mom told me that even criticism can be phrased in a positive way.”

Dr Diener has developed several ways to measure well-being. One of them, the Life Satisfaction Scale, is made up of five statements that were asked of respondents, in both large and small studies, such as “In most cases. case, my life is close to my ideal ”and“ The conditions of my life are excellent ”. Respondents were asked to respond to each on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree).

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My own study of happiness — which was published on this site about 10 years ago and written [more than] 30 year ago was designed for people like me: creative, inventive, on the look-out... It is based on the stylistic development of natural mechanics of active/reactive levers of aggressiveness and submissiveness. People who are creative (me!) are often on the cusp of depression, despair and distress. Creativity is highly demanding especially when avoiding the old pathways, the old styles and the laziness.



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who's happier?...

Do liberals or conservatives experience higher levels of satisfaction, happiness or meaning in life? Is the left or the right more inclined to intolerance, bigotry or conspiratorial thinking? Are Democrats or Republicans more loyal to family and friends?

A wide range of scholars in a variety of disciplines are asking these questions and taking them seriously. Ultimately, though, this line of inquiry raises an even broader question: whether liberals and conservatives function on fundamentally different moral planes.

Two similarly titled papers with markedly disparate conclusions illustrate the range of disagreement on this subject. “Why Are Conservatives Happier Than Liberals?” by Jaime Napier of N.Y.U. in Abu Dhabi and John Jost of N.Y.U., and “Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals, but Why?” by Barry R. Schlenker and John Chambers, both of the University of Florida, and Bonnie Le of the University of Rochester.


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Who is happier? Well, anyone who choses to be happy is in a better place than most... BUT, WHO is happier in politics? Easy: the CONservatives, of course. It's simple. For the CONservative capitalists, the modus operandi has little conflict of purpose: make money by winning and be generous to the losers, to a point (if needed to avoid social unrest). For the Liberals, there are all sorts of conflicts, from being capitalists with the caveat of equality. This simply does not work, because the capitalist system demands explicit inequality of resources, social structure and income... This is why it is so hard to make "human rights" stick. And "woke" does not cut it...


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happy cleaning…




The sadness we feel over our own misfortunes should leave us with empathy towards the misfortunes of others, that we should renew our efforts to live up to the Golden Rule.

The British article offers a better kind of happiness: what Socrates called “eudaimonia” – the feeling that your life has meaning, and that you are reaching your potential.


It quotes a study finding that people who felt more strongly that the things they did in their lives were more worthwhile – in other words, that their life had meaning – were better off in all kinds of ways: socially, physically and emotionally.

So, how do we add meaning to our lives? One way could be through our jobs – paid or unpaid. The goal of helping to make the world a better place is easier seen in some jobs than others. But I remember reading of a hospital cleaner who saw her job as vital to speeding the recovery of the patient and the convenience of their visiting families.

The more fundamental way to add meaning is via our relationships with family, friends and workmates. We are, first and foremost, social animals.

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert says “social relationships are a powerful predictor of happiness – much more so than money. Happy people have extensive social networks and good relationships with people in those networks”.


The other thing I’ve learnt is not to be misled by the US constitution and think you can pursue happiness. The founding fathers meant people should be free to run their lives as they see fit. True. But it’s a mistake to have being happy as your primary goal – and even worse to think you can make yourself happy by treating yourself to all the things you enjoy doing (chocolate, for instance).


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SAD But True For So Many Today. Whats wrong here? (by design) Question who you are and why you do what you do