Pessimism In The Glass Castle

Tuesday, November 9, 2021 3:45:39 AM

Pessimism In The Glass Castle



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Happy people remember more of the negative information and rate it as more convincing, it turns out, than do the unhappy people. The resolution of the dispute about which type of people are smarter may be the following: In the normal course of events, happy people rely on their tried and true positive past experiences, whereas less happy people are more skeptical. Even if a light has seemed uncontrollable for the last ten minutes, happy people assume from their past experience that things will eventually work out, and at some point they will have some control.

Hence the 35 percent response discussed earlier, even when the green light was actually uncontrollable. There is an exciting possibility with rich implications that integrates all these findings: A positive mood jolts us into an entirely different way of thinking from a negative mood. This seems to make us critics of a high order. When we gather to debate which one of several superb job candidates we should hire as a professor, we often end up hiring no one, instead picking out everything that each candidate has done wrong. So a chilly, negative mood activates a battle-stations mode of thinking: the order of the day is to focus on what is wrong and then eliminate it. A positive mood, in contrast, buoys people into a way of thinking that is creative, tolerant, constructive, generous, undefensive and lateral.

This way of thinking aims to detect not what is wrong, but what is right. It does not go out of its way to detect sins of omission, but hones in on the virtues of commission. It probably even occurs in a different part of the brain and has a different neurochemistry from thinking under negative mood. Choose your venue and design your mood to fit the task at hand. Here are examples of tasks that usually require critical thinking: taking the graduate record exams, doing income tax, deciding whom to fire, dealing with repeated romantic rejections, preparing for an audit, copy-editing, making crucial decisions in competitive sports, and figuring out where to go to college.

Carry these out on rainy days, in straight-backed chairs, and in silent, institutionally painted rooms. Being uptight, sad, or out of sorts will not impede you; it may even make your decisions more acute. In contrast, any number of life tasks call for creative, generous, and tolerant thinking: planning a sales campaign, finding ways to increase the amount of love in your life, pondering a new career field, deciding whether to marry someone, thinking about hobbies and noncompetitive sports, and creative writing. Carry these out in a setting that will buoy your mood for example, in a comfortable chair, with suitable music, sun, and fresh air.

If possible, surround yourself with people you trust to be unselfish and of good will. Play among juvenile ground squirrels involves running at top speed, jumping straight up into the air, changing directions in midair, then landing and streaking off in the new direction. Young Patas monkeys at play will run headlong into saplings that are flexible enough to catapult them off into another direction. Both of these maneuvers are used by adults of the respective species to escape predators. It is almost irresistible to view play in general as a builder of muscle and cardiovascular fitness and as the practice that perfects avoiding predators, as well as perfecting fighting, hunting, and courting.

Health and longevity are good indicators of physical reserve, and there is direct evidence that positive emotion predicts health and longevity. In the largest study to date, 2, Mexican-Americans from the southwest United States aged sixty-five or older were given a battery of demographic and emotional tests, then tracked for two years. Positive emotion strongly predicted who lived and who died, as well as disability. After controlling for age, income, education, weight, smoking, drinking, and disease, the researchers found that happy people were half as likely to die, and half as likely to become disabled.

Positive emotion also protects people against the ravages of aging. You will recall that beginning nuns who wrote happy autobiographies when in their twenties lived longer and healthier lives than novices whose autobiographies were devoid of positive emotion, and also that optimists in the Mayo Clinic study lived significantly longer than pessimists. Happy people, furthermore, have better health habits, lower blood pressure, and feistier immune systems than less happy people. Research suggests, however, that more happiness actually causes more productivity and higher income.

One study measured the amount of positive emotion of employees, then followed their job performance over the next eighteen months. Happier people went on to get better evaluations from their supervisors and higher pay. In a large-scale study of Australian youths across fifteen years, happiness made gainful employment and higher income more likely. In attempts to define whether happiness or productivity comes first by inducing happiness experimentally and then looking at later performance , it turns out that adults and children who are put into a good mood select higher goals, perform better, and persist longer on a variety of laboratory tasks, such as solving anagrams.

When Bad Things Happen to Happy People The final edge that happy people have for building physical resources is how well they deal with untoward events. How long can you hold your hand in a bucket of ice water? The average duration before the pain gets to be too much is between sixty and ninety seconds. Rick Snyder, a professor at Kansas and one of the fathers of Positive Psychology, used this test on Good Morning America to demonstrate the effects of positive emotion on coping with adversity. He first gave a test of positive emotion to the regular cast. By quite a margin, Charles Gibson outscored everybody.

Then, before live cameras, each member of the cast put his or her hand in ice water. Everyone, except Gibson, yanked their hands out before ninety seconds had elapsed. Gibson, though, just sat there grinning not grimacing , and still had his hand in the bucket when a commercial break was finally called. Not only do happy people endure pain better and take more health and safety precautions when threatened, but positive emotions undo negative emotions.

Barbara Fredrickson showed students a filmed scene from The Ledge in which a man inches along the ledge of a high-rise, hugging the building. At one point he loses his grip and dangles above the traffic; the heart rate of students watching this clip goes through the roof. Building Social Resources At the age of seven weeks my youngest child, Carly Dylan, took her first tentative steps in the dance of development. Mandy beamed back and laughed, and Carly, cooing, broke into a bigger smile. Securely attached children grow up to outperform their peers in almost every way that has been tested, including persistence, problem solving, independence, exploration, and enthusiasm.

Feeling positive emotion and expressing it well is at the heart of not only the love between a mother and an infant, but of almost all love and friendship. It never fails to surprise me that my closest friends are not other psychologists in spite of so much shared sympathy, time together, and common background or even other intellectuals, but the people with whom I play poker, bridge, and volleyball. The exception proves the rule here. There is a tragic facial paralysis called Moebius syndrome that leaves its victims unable to smile. Individuals born with this affliction cannot show positive emotion with their face, and so they react to the friendliest conversation with a disconcerting deadpan.

They have enormous difficulty making and keeping even casual friends. When the sequence of feeling a positive emotion, expressing it, eliciting a positive emotion in another, and then responding back goes awry, the music that supports the dance of love and friendship is interrupted. Routine psychological studies focus on pathology; they look at the most depressed, anxious, or angry people and ask about their lifestyles and personalities. I have done such studies for two decades. We took an unselected sample of college students and measured happiness rigorously by using six different scales, then focused on the happiest 10 percent.

The very happy people spent the least time alone and the most time socializing , and they were rated highest on good relationships by themselves and by their friends. All 22 members of the very happy group, except one, reported a current romantic partner. The very happy group had a little more money, but they did not experience a different number of negative or positive events, and they did not differ on amount of sleep, TV watching, exercise, smoking, drinking alcohol, or religious activity. Many other studies show that happy people have more casual friends and more close friends, are more likely to be married, and are more involved in group activities than unhappy people.

A corollary of the enmeshment with others that happy people have is their altruism. Before I saw the data, I thought that unhappy people— identifying with the suffering that they know so well—would be more altruistic. So I was taken aback when the findings on mood and helping others without exception revealed that happy people were more likely to demonstrate that trait. In the laboratory, children and adults who are made happy display more empathy and are willing to donate more money to others in need. When we are happy, we are less self-focused, we like others more, and we want to share our good fortune even with strangers.

When we are down, though, we become distrustful, turn inward, and focus defensively on our own needs. Looking out for number one is more characteristic of sadness than of well-being. Developing more positive emotion in our lives will build friendship, love, better physical health, and greater achievement. Broadening and building—that is, growth and positive development— are the essential characteristics of a win-win encounter. Ideally, reading this chapter is an example of a win-win encounter: if I have done my job well, I grew intellectually by writing it, and so did you by reading it.

Being in love, making a friend, and raising children are almost always huge win- wins. Almost every technological advance for example, the printing press or the hybrid tea rose is a win-win interaction. The printing press did not subtract an equivalent economic value from somewhere else; rather it engendered an explosion in value. Herein lies the likely reason for feelings. By activating an expansive, tolerant, and creative mindset, positive feelings maximize the social, intellectual, and physical benefits that will accrue.

Now that you and I are convinced that it is well worth it to bring more happiness into your life, the overriding question is, can the amount of positive emotion in our lives be increased? Let us now turn to that question. The Happiness Formula Although much of the research that underlies this book is based in statistics, a user-friendly book in psychology for the educated layperson can have at most one equation. V, the single most important issue in Positive Psychology, is the subject of Chapters 5, 6, and 7. H Enduring Level of Happiness It is important to distinguish your momentary happiness from your enduring level of happiness. Momentary happiness can easily be increased by any number of uplifts, such as chocolate, a comedy film, a back rub, a compliment, flowers, or a new blouse.

No one is more expert on this topic than you are. The challenge is to raise your enduring level of happiness, and merely increasing the number of bursts of momentary positive feelings will not for reasons you will read about shortly accomplish this. The Fordyce scale you took in the last chapter was about momentary happiness, and the time has now come to measure your general level of happiness.

The following scale was devised by Sonja Lyubomirsky, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California at Riverside. In general, I consider myself: 2. Some people are generally very happy. They enjoy life regardless of what is going on, getting the most out of everything. To what extent does this characterization describe you? Some people are generally not very happy. Although they are not depressed, they never seem as happy as they might be. To score the test, total your answers for the questions and divide by 8. The mean for adult Americans is 4. Two-thirds of people score between 3. The title of this chapter may seem like a peculiar question to you. You may believe that with enough effort, every emotional state and every personality trait can be improved.

When I began studying psychology forty years ago, I also believed this, and this dogma of total human plasticity reigned over the entire field. It held that with enough personal work and with enough reshaping of the environment all of human psychology could be remade for the better. It was shattered beyond repair in the s, however, when studies of the personality of twins and of adopted children began to cascade in. The psychology of identical twins turns out to be much more similar than that of fraternal twins, and the psychology of adopted children turns out to be much more similar to their biological parents than to their adoptive parents. All of these studies—and they now number in the hundreds—converge on a single point: roughly 50 percent of almost every personality trait turns out to be attributable to genetic inheritance.

But high heritability does not determine how unchangeable a trait is. S Set Range : The Barriers to Becoming Happier Roughly half of your score on happiness tests is accounted for by the score your biological parents would have gotten had they taken the test. So, for example, if you are low in positive affectivity, you may frequently feel the impulse to avoid social contact and spend your time alone. As you will see below, happy people are very social, and there is some reason to think that their happiness is caused by lots of fulfilling socializing. So, if you do not fight the urgings of your genetic steersman, you may remain lower in happy feelings than you would be otherwise. She needed periodic doses of hope because her usual mood was low; if she could have afforded a therapist, her diagnosis would have been minor depression.

This ongoing funk did not begin when her husband left her three years earlier for another woman, but seemed to have always been there—at least since middle school, twenty-five years ago. Then a miracle happened: Ruth won 22 million dollars in the Illinois State lottery. She was beside herself with joy. She was even able to send her twin sons to private school. Strangely, however, as the year went by, her mood drifted downward. By the end of the year, in spite of the absence of any obvious adversity, her expensive therapist diagnosed Ruth as having a case of dysthymic disorder chronic depression. A systematic study of 22 people who won major lotteries found that they reverted to their baseline level of happiness over time, winding up no happier than 22 matched controls.

The good news, however, is that after misfortune strikes, the thermostat will strive to pull us out of our misery eventually. In fact, depression is almost always episodic, with recovery occurring within a few months of onset. Even individuals who become paraplegic as a result of spinal cord accidents quickly begin to adapt to their greatly limited capacities, and within eight weeks they report more net positive emotion than negative emotion. Within a few years, they wind up only slightly less happy on average than individuals who are not paralyzed. Of people with extreme quadriplegia, 84 percent consider their life to be average or above average. These findings fit the idea that we each have a personal set range for our level of positive and negative emotion, and this range may represent the inherited aspect of overall happiness.

As you accumulate more material possessions and accomplishments, your expectations rise. The deeds and things you worked so hard for no longer make you happy; you need to get something even better to boost your level of happiness into the upper reaches of its set range. But once you get the next possession or achievement, you adapt to it as well, and so on. There is, unfortunately, a good deal of evidence for such a treadmill. If there were no treadmill, people who get more good things in life would in general be much happier than the less fortunate.

But the less fortunate are, by and large, just as happy as the more fortunate. Good things and high accomplishments, studies have shown, have astonishingly little power to raise happiness more than transiently: In less than three months, major events such as being fired or promoted lose their impact on happiness levels. Wealth, which surely brings more possessions in its wake, has a surprisingly low correlation with happiness level. Rich people are, on average, only slightly happier than poor people. Real income has risen dramatically in the prosperous nations over the last half century, but the level of life satisfaction has been entirely flat in the United States and most other wealthy nations.

Physical attractiveness which, like wealth, brings about any number of advantages does not have much effect at all on happiness. Objective physical health, perhaps the most valuable of all resources, is barely correlated with happiness. There are limits on adaptation, however. There are some bad events that we never get used to, or adapt to only very slowly. The death of a child or a spouse in a car crash is one example. Four to seven years after such events, bereaved people are still much more depressed and unhappy than controls. Together, the S variables your genetic steersman, the hedonic treadmill, and your set range tend to keep your level of happiness from increasing. But there are two other powerful forces, C and V, that do raise the level of happiness.

C Circumstances The good news about circumstances is that some do change happiness for the better. The bad news is that changing these circumstances is usually impractical and expensive. What percentage of Americans becomes clinically depressed in their lifetime? What percentage of Americans reports life satisfaction above neutral? What percentage of mental patients reports a positive emotional balance more positive feelings than negative feelings? Which of the following groups of Americans report a negative emotional balance more negative feelings than positive?

American adults answering these questions believe, on average, that the lifetime prevalence of clinical depression is 49 percent it is actually between 8 and 18 percent , that only 56 percent of Americans report positive life satisfaction it is actually 83 percent , and that only 33 percent of the mentally ill report more positive than negative feelings it is actually 57 percent. All of the four disadvantaged groups in fact report that they are mostly happy, but 83 percent of adults guess the opposite for poor African-Americans, and percent make the same guess for unemployed men. Only 38 and 24 percent, respectively, guess that the most elderly and multiply handicapped people report a positive hedonic balance. The overall lesson is that most Americans, regardless of objective circumstances, say they are happy, and at the same time they markedly underestimate the happiness of other Americans.

At the dawn of serious research on happiness in , Warner Wilson reviewed what was known then. I will now review what has been discovered over the past thirty-five years about how external circumstances influence happiness. Some of it is astonishing. Rich is better. At the broadest level, researchers compare the average subjective well-being of people living in rich nations versus those in poor nations.

Here is the question about life satisfaction that at least one thousand respondents from each of forty nations answered; please answer it yourself now: On a scale of 1 dissatisfied to 10 satisfied , how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days? This cross-national survey, involving tens of thousands of adults, illustrates several points. First, Sophie Tucker was partly right: overall national purchasing power and average life satisfaction go strongly in the same general direction. So the wealthy Swiss are happier than poor Bulgarians, but it hardly matters if one is Irish, Italian, Norwegian, or American. There are also plenty of exceptions to the wealth-satisfaction association: Brazil, mainland China, and Argentina are much higher in life satisfaction than would be predicted by their wealth.

The former Soviet- bloc countries are less satisfied than their wealth would predict, as are the Japanese. The cultural values of Brazil and Argentina and the political values of China might support positive emotion, and the difficult emergence from communism with its accompanying deterioration in health and social dislocation probably lowers happiness in eastern Europe. Cross-national comparisons are difficult to disentangle, since the wealthy nations also have higher literacy, better health, more education, and more liberty, as well as more material goods. Comparing richer with poorer people within each nation helps to sort out the causes, and this information is closer to the comparison that is relevant to your own decision making.

In very poor nations, where poverty threatens life itself, being rich does predict greater well-being. In wealthier nations, however, where almost everyone has a basic safety net, increases in wealth have negligible effects on personal happiness. In the United States, the very poor are lower in happiness, but once a person is just barely comfortable, added money adds little or no happiness. Even the fabulously rich—the Forbes , with an average net worth of over million dollars —are only slightly happier than the average American. How about the very poor? He interviewed and tested thirty-two prostitutes and thirty-one pavement dwellers of Calcutta about their life satisfaction. Kalpana is a thirty-five-year-old woman who has been a prostitute for twenty years.

The death of her mother forced her into the profession to help support her siblings. She maintains contact with her brother and sister and visits them once a month in their village, and she supports her eight-year-old daughter in that village. Kalpana lives alone and practices her profession in a small, rented concrete room, furnished with a bed, mirror, some dishes, and a shrine to the Hindu gods. She falls into the official A category of sex worker, making more than two and a half dollars per customer. Astonishingly this is not so.

Their overall life satisfaction is slightly negative 1. But in many domains of life, their satisfaction is high: morality 2. Their lowest satisfaction in a specific domain is income 2. While Kalpana fears that her old village friends would look down on her, her family members do not. Her once-a-month visits are times of joy. She is thankful that she earns enough to provide a nanny for her daughter and to keep her housed and well-fed. When Biswas-Diener compares the pavement dwellers of Calcutta to the street people of Fresno, California, however, he finds striking differences in favor of India. Among the seventy-eight street people, average life satisfaction is extremely low 1.

There are a few domains in which satisfaction is moderate, such as intelligence 2. While these data are based on only a small sample of poor people, they are surprising and not easily dismissed. But even in the face of great adversity, these poor people find much of their lives satisfying although this is much more true of slum dwellers in Calcutta than of very poor Americans. If this is correct, there are plenty of reasons to work to reduce poverty—including lack of opportunity, high infant mortality, unhealthy housing and diet, crowding, lack of employment, or demeaning work—but low life satisfaction is not among them. This summer Robert is off to the northern tip of Greenland, to study happiness among a group of Inuit who have not yet discovered the joys of the snowmobile.

How important money is to you, more than money itself, influences your happiness. Marriage Marriage is sometimes damned as a ball and chain, and sometimes praised as a joy forever. Neither of these characterizations is exactly on target, but on the whole the data support the latter more than the former. Unlike money, which has at most a small effect, marriage is robustly related to happiness.

Living with a significant other but not being married is associated with more happiness in individualistic cultures like ours, but with less happiness in collectivist cultures like Japan and China. The happiness advantage for the married holds controlling for age and income, and it is equally true for both men and women. What follows from the marriage-happiness association? Should you run out and try to get married? This is sound advice only if marriage actually causes happiness, which is the causal story most marriage researchers endorse.

There are two more curmudgeonly possibilities, however: that people who are already happy are more likely to get married and stay married, or that some third variable like good looks or sociability causes both more happiness and a greater likelihood of marriage. Depressed people, after all, tend to be more withdrawn, irritable, and self- focused, and so they may make less appealing partners. In my opinion, the jury is still out on what causes the proven fact that married people are happier than unmarried people. You will recall that very happy people differ markedly from both average and unhappy people in that they all lead a rich and fulfilling social life.

The very happy people spend the least time alone and the most time socializing, and they are rated highest on good relationships by themselves and also by their friends. These findings are of a piece with those on marriage and happiness, in both their virtues and their flaws. The increased sociability of happy people may actually be the cause of the marriage findings, with more sociable people who also start out happier being more likely to marry. In either case, however, it is hard to disentangle cause from effect. So it is a serious possibility that a rich social life and marriage will make you happier. But it could be that people who are happier to begin with are better liked, and they therefore have a richer social life and are more likely to marry.

Negative Emotion In order to experience more positive emotion in your life, should you strive to experience less negative emotion by minimizing bad events in your life? The answer to this question is surprising. Contrary to popular belief, having more than your share of misery does not mean you cannot have a lot of joy as well. There are several lines of sound evidence that deny a reciprocal relation between positive and negative emotion. Norman Bradburn, a distinguished professor emeritus from the University of Chicago, began his long career by surveying thousands of Americans about life satisfaction, and he asked about the frequency of pleasant and unpleasant emotions. He expected to find a perfectly inverse relation between them—that people who experienced a lot of negative emotion would be those who experienced very little positive emotion, and vice versa.

This is not at all the way the data turned out, and these findings have been repeated many times. There is only a moderate negative correlation between positive and negative emotion. This means that if you have a lot of negative emotion in your life, you may have somewhat less positive emotion than average, but that you are not remotely doomed to a joyless life. Similarly, if you have a lot of positive emotion in your life, this only protects you moderately well from sorrows.

Next came studies of men versus women. Women, it had been well established, experience twice as much depression as men, and generally have more of the negative emotions. When researchers began to look at positive emotions and gender, they were surprised to find that women also experience considerably more positive emotion—more frequently and more intensely—than men do. The ancient Greek word soteria refers to our high, irrational joys.

This word is the opposite of phobia, which means high, irrational fear. Literally, however, soteria derives from the feast that was held by Greeks upon deliverance from death. The highest joys, it turns out, sometimes follow relief from our worst fears. The joys of the roller-coaster, of the bungee jump, of the horror movie, and even the astonishing decrease in mental illness during times of war testify to this. All in all, the relation between negative emotion and positive emotion is certainly not polar opposition.

What it is and why this is are simply not known, and unraveling this is one of the exciting challenges of Positive Psychology. Youth is no longer what it was cracked up to be, and once researchers took a more sophisticated view of the data, the greater happiness of young people back then vanished as well. An authoritative study of 60, adults from forty nations divides happiness into three components: life satisfaction, pleasant affect, and unpleasant affect. Life satisfaction goes up slightly with age, pleasant affect declines slightly, and negative affect does not change. What does change as we age is the intensity of our emotions.

It turns out, however, that objective good health is barely related to happiness; what matters is our subjective perception of how healthy we are, and it is a tribute to our ability to adapt to adversity that we are able to find ways to appraise our health positively even when we are quite sick. Doctor visits and being hospitalized do not affect life satisfaction, but only subjectively rated health—which, in turn, is influenced by negative emotion. Remarkably, even severely ill cancer patients differ only slightly on global life satisfaction from objectively healthy people.

When disabling illness is severe and long-lasting, happiness and life satisfaction do decline, although not nearly as much as you might expect. Individuals admitted to a hospital with only one chronic health problem such as heart disease show marked increases in happiness over the next year, but the happiness of individuals with five or more health problems deteriorates over time.

So moderate ill health does not bring unhappiness in its wake, but severe illness does. Education, Climate, Race, and Gender I group these circumstances together because, surprisingly, none of them much matters for happiness. Even though education is a means to higher income, it is not a means to higher happiness, except only slightly and only among those people with low income. Nor does intelligence influence happiness in either direction. People suffering through a Nebraska winter believe people in California are happier, but they are wrong; we adapt to good weather completely and very quickly. So your dream of happiness on a tropical island will not come true, at least not for climatic reasons.

Race, at least in the United States, is not related to happiness in any consistent way. In spite of worse economic numbers, African-Americans and Hispanics have markedly lower rates of depression than Caucasians, but their level of reported happiness is not higher than Caucasians except perhaps among older men. Gender, as I said above, has a fascinating relation to mood. Academic discussions of faith indicted it as producing guilt, repressed sexuality, intolerance, anti-intellectualism, and authoritarianism.

About twenty years ago, however, the data on the positive psychological effects of faith started to provide a countervailing force. Religious Americans are clearly less likely to abuse drugs, commit crimes, divorce, and kill themselves. They are also physically healthier and they live longer. Religious mothers of children with disabilities fight depression better, and religious people are less thrown by divorce, unemployment, illness, and death. Most directly relevant is the fact that survey data consistently show religious people as being somewhat happier and more satisfied with life than nonreligious people.

The causal relation between religion and healthier, more prosocial living is no mystery. Many religions proscribe drugs, crime, and infidelity while endorsing charity, moderation, and hard work. The causal relation of religion to greater happiness, lack of depression, and greater resilience from tragedy is not as straightforward. In the heyday of behaviorism, the emotional benefits of religion were explained away? But there is, I believe, a more basic link: religions instill hope for the future and create meaning in life. Sheena Sethi Iyengar is one of the most remarkable undergraduates I have ever known.

Entirely blind, she crisscrossed the United States in her senior year at the University of Pennsylvania while doing her senior thesis. She visited one congregation after another, measuring the relation between optimism and religious faith. To do this, she gave questionnaires to hundreds of adherents, recorded and analyzed dozens of weekend sermons, and scrutinized the liturgy and the stories told to children for eleven prominent American religions.

Her first finding is that the more fundamentalist the religion, the more optimistic are its adherents: Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Christians and Muslims are markedly more optimistic than Reform Jews and Unitarians, who are more depressive on average. Probing more deeply, she separated the amount of hope found in the sermons, liturgy, and stories from other factors like social support. She found that the increase in optimism which increasing religiousness brings is entirely accounted for by greater hope. As a Christian mystic, Julian of Norwich, sang from the depths of the Black Plague in the mid-fourteenth century in some of the most beautiful words ever penned: But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well…. The relation of meaning and happiness, both secular and religious, is a topic I return to in the last chapter.

Given that there is probably a set range that holds your present level of general happiness quite stationary, this chapter asks how you can change your life circumstances in order to live in the uppermost part of your range. Until recently it was the received wisdom that happy people were well paid, married, young, healthy, well educated, and religious. So I reviewed what we know about the set of external circumstantial variables C that have been alleged to influence happiness. Live in a wealthy democracy, not in an impoverished dictatorship a strong effect 2. Get married a robust effect, but perhaps not causal 3. Avoid negative events and negative emotion only a moderate effect 4. Acquire a rich social network a robust effect, but perhaps not causal 5.

Make more money money has little or no effect once you are comfortable enough to buy this book, and more materialistic people are less happy 7. Stay healthy subjective health, not objective health matters 8. Get as much education as possible no effect 9. Change your race or move to a sunnier climate no effect You have undoubtedly noticed that the factors that matter vary from impossible to inconvenient to change. Even if you could alter all of the external circumstances above, it would not do much for you, since together they probably account for no more than between 8 and 15 percent of the variance in happiness. The very good news is that there are quite a number of internal circumstances that will likely work for you. So I now turn to this set of variables, which are more under your voluntary control.

If you decide to change them and be warned that none of these changes come without real effort , your level of happiness is likely to increase lastingly. What voluntary variables V will create sustainable change and do better than just pursuing more occasions of momentary pleasure? If an English word came from a book's character, that must be something. If the book was written and first published in the 18th century and many people still read it up to now, that must be really something. I thought Voltaire's Candide was a difficult boring slow long read. Exactly the opposite.

It's an easy, very entertaining, fast-paced and short only pa panglossian - adj. It's an easy, very entertaining, fast-paced and short only pages read. If you are still scared of reading classics pre , give this one a try. You will love this! It tells a story of a man named Candide who falls in love with a materialistic but very beautiful Cunegonde. Her barron father of the lady does not approve of the affair so he kicks Candide out from house.

So, Candide wanders around and meets all the misfortunes along the way. The novel is a picaresque as the long travel, meeting a lot of people and experiencing all the fortunes and misfortunes along the way, ends up with Candide enjoying his life and tending the beautiful garden of his estate. This is the reason why I, after more than 3 years, went to our frontyard this morning and tended my overgrown garden. I pruned the trees and the shrubs, trimmed the plants, pulled out some weeds while my daughter helped in shooing away big red ants and removing the cobwebs. Reading has these all positive effects on me. It can even remind me of the things that I have been forgetting for a long time.

This novel closes with this line: "That is well said," replied Candide, "but we must cultivate our garden. When I finished reading it last night, I said, why not? Its complete title is Candide or Optimism because of Candide's tutor, Doctor Pangloss who is an extreme optimist that Candide learns to always look at the positive side of things. You may say that I liked this book because of that. The positivity of Dr. Pangloss is one for the books as it verges on stupidity and it is so funny when Candide remembers him and says "I wonder what would Pangloss say if he was here?

He is really one for the books. A life err routine-changing novel since I am gardening again after 3 long years of doing nothing at home but reading, reading and reading Except of course when am I at Goodreads reading book reviews of my friends, clicking the Like button and when I am in front of my desktop killing zombies by throwing plants at them.

I liked this book! View all 13 comments. Consider me dramatically and unequivocally unimpressed. I did not laugh once. I do not engage with stories that are simple allegory to represent a philosophy. I want a little bit of substance. I want some storytelling involved. Call it a product of its time if you like, but laziness is the word that comes to mind. I won't waste anymore words here. This book is wildly entertaining and I giggled all the way through Candide's awful adventures. Who would have thought that murder, rape, slavery, sexual exploitation, natural disaster, pillaging, theft, and every other oppression imaginable could be so funny?

Here's some pretty good insight from the old woman with one buttock: "I have been a hundred times upon the point of killing myself, but still I was fond of life. This ridiculous weakness is, perhaps, one of the dangerous principles im Zounds! This ridiculous weakness is, perhaps, one of the dangerous principles implanted in our nature. For what can be more absurd than to persist in carrying a burden of which we wish to be eased? In a word, to caress the serpent that devours us, and hug him close to our bosoms till he has gnawed into our hearts? We go on living against our better judgment and in spite of all of our misery. It is what we were born to do. View all 3 comments. Candide is a real crush! Simply magical. I knew this novel but had never had the pleasure of reading it.

Here it is! Candide is the hero of this philosophical tale; he is a character who lives up to his name, who wants to be optimistic and who believes in life. We know that he was born in Westphalia, a German kingdom, and is the son of the sister of Sir Baron de Thunder-ten-tronckh. The meeting with philosophical characters, like Martin, Cacambo, and especially the Turk, will reveal to him the secrets of happiness: "You have to cultivate your garden" or "Work without reasoning" The moral of the story is elsewhere so correct since it translates the following thought: "The only way to escape unhappiness or boredom is to go from philosophical reflection as Candide did to concrete actions respecting our limits".

I never imagined that this book would please me so much! Voltaire depicts society's setbacks so well, majestically criticising men and slavery, money, possession, black markets, power, and many other horrors that we are immediately transporting to the side. Of Candide by taking the journey of life with him. View all 4 comments. Jan 08, Brian Yahn rated it it was ok. In only about pages, Voltaire says more than your average 7 book series Which would be great if most of what he talked about wasn't dated into irrelevance. So unless you're a French scholar, appreciating his satire seems unrealistic.

Combine that with the speed at which the plot moves, and keeping up with Candide is definitely a chore. Truly enjoying his adventure seems like a privilege only possible for the super-educated. At one time, Candide was a must-read. But, for the average person In only about pages, Voltaire says more than your average 7 book series But, for the average person, that time probably passed a hundred years ago. View all 8 comments. I loved Candide! It is such a brilliant satire on the ideas observed through the glass of rosy eyed philosophy.

Candide, a young fellow, believes that whatever happens is for the best, courtesy his tutor Dr. The writing covers a number of unfavorable happenings and incidents, which should have been sufficient enough to let him abandon the colored glasses. But voila! Our man Candide is one optimist! He continues believing even I loved Candide! He continues believing even through all the misfortunes in life. Nothing, not even the greatest follies of mankind like injustice, greed, apathy can shake his belief. In search of his beloved, Lady Cunegonde, he faces one trouble after another; at each step believing the philosophy to be true for he believes that he will be happy after he reunites with the love of his life. So, where do we get from here? It made me contemplate how still the religious or ideological conditioning can play a larger role in the underdevelopment of minds, thereby restricting rational thinking.

It is further astonishing to witness the influence such ideas can exercise, if they are bestowed regularly with zest on a naive mind. And more than this, an individual, accepting such ideology, stands in danger of coming face to face with a sense of utter despair or worthlessness at the mere hint of failure of the long held ideas. So, what can be a solution to this? In this work, Voltaire suggests hard work i. He opines that labor holds off three great evils: tedium, vice and poverty, making life more supportable. I do agree with him. Along with this I also believe that younger minds should be encouraged to question and analyse the ideas presented to them, so that what they exercise are not mere vague ideas but beliefs which can sturdily stand the test of the times.

View all 42 comments. Nov 12, Jenna rated it really liked it Shelves: classic-of-the-month , classics , philosophy. Over the top optimism due to a belief that everything happens according to some divine plan. Well, "God" has a plan and a purpose for this. Just you wait, someday you'll be thankful this happened! Well, "God" works in mysterious ways but his will is always best. Excuse the language, but really!

Instead of feeling compassion for others or trying to do something to actually help them, some people spout off these insensitive platitudes that can only make the one suffering feel worse. Hey, it's your own fault if you can't see the bright side in this! Everyone in your family just died? Of course, there are those who choose to see their own suffering in this light and that's fine and dandy if it helps you to believe that some good cough, cough god wants you to suffer. If you can find meaning in your suffering, I'm glad for you. Just please don't try to tell others to do the same. You know who else had a problem with this idea?

Voltaire did. The German philosopher Leibniz had some crazy notion that this is the best of all possible worlds and everything that happens is the best that can be. Yeeeehhhh riiiiggghhhttt You can't imagine a world, say, I don't know, without suffering?? That wouldn't be better than one with suffering?? Leibniz assumed that the world and all in it is created by an omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent god; ergo, everything that happens is the best that can be. Well, Herr Leibniz, forgive me for saying but this god of yours can't possibly have all three of those qualities and have created the world as it is. Even I can imagine something much better and I'm not omniscient.

Simply removing suffering would be a good start. But I digress. Voltaire's line of reasoning was more along my own than that of Liebniz's and so he did what anyone would do who takes issue with such a batshit idea. He wrote a book mocking it. OK, maybe not anyone would do that, but someone who can write books and who loves satire? Thus we have Candide. In it, our eponymous protagonist is a follower of Pangloss, a philosopher who, like Leibniz, avers that this is the best of all possible worlds. It's the one we have and a good god created it; therefore, it must be the best.

Pangloss, like Liebniz, suffers from a lack of imagination and critical thinking skills. Our poor protagonist is exiled from his home for daring to love a woman who is above his class. That, my friends, is just the beginning of his problems. After he witnesses Pangloss being hanged, he embarks on a journey that is one mishap and tragedy after another. Everyone he comes into contact with has an ever worse story to tell. Indeed, there is not one person who doesn't suffer horrific things. At first Candide clings to his master's teachings that this is the best of all possible worlds and thus one should be thankful for the wrongs they endure. Gradually though, as he witnesses ever increasing tragedies and suffering, he begins to question this premise.

I really enjoyed this novel, the wit and outrageousness. The clever storytelling. The preposterous events and the maturation of young Candide's mind. Not quite a 5 star novel, but still a very worthwhile and enjoyable read. An added benefit is that I learned a couple new words. Thanks, Voltaire and M-W! November classic-of-the-month View all 30 comments. His soul was revealed in his face. He combined rather sound judgment with great simplicity of mind; it was for this reason, I believe, that he was given the name of Candide.

Pangloss that "all is for the best". Tho "In the castle of Baron Thunder-ten-tronchkh in Westphalia, there once lived a youth endowed by nature with the gentlest of characters. Though not expelled from my castle and "earthly paradise" for falling in love with the wrong young man and forcing the wrath of his parent to fall upon my shoulders, I did leave my humble abode to find independence, seek fortune and to live happily ever after. I knew there existed hardships in the world, but they could never really affect me personally, could they?

Well, I am thankful to say that such misfortunes did not fall directly upon me as they did for Candide and the other characters of this penetrating and often comical little book. After his expulsion from the castle of Westphalia, Candide experiences, witnesses and hears about one horrific calamity after another as he travels the world — murder, war, rape, the Inquisition, theft, natural disasters and more. The events are often quite shocking and sometimes on the verge of being simply absurd when you read about the old woman you will see what I mean here. I may not have been the wretched victim of such outrageous atrocities, yet as I began to make my own way in the world I grew to understand that such evil really did exist all around me.

Candide, while not completely disillusioned, begins to question the faith of the ever so hopeful Dr. If given the opportunity to discuss what he has endured with this great philosopher, Candide believes Pangloss "would have told us admirable things about the physical and moral evils that cover the earth and the sea, and I would have felt strong enough to venture a few respectful objections. As he continues his voyage, Candide deliberately seeks to find "the most unfortunate" and "most disgusted" man to travel with him. Thus he meets Martin. We have all probably met a Martin. Some days, when I hear about the ugliness in the world, I feel like a Martin myself.

Martin maintains that God has abandoned this world. Everywhere in the world, the weak detest the strong and grovel before them, and the strong treat them like flocks of sheep to be sold for their meat and wool. Should one bear extreme optimism like Dr. Pangloss or extreme pessimism like Martin? Is there something in between that allows us not to view the world with rose-colored glasses and ignorance but yet one that does not drown us in negativity and despair? One perhaps must take what we have been given, make the best of it, and find some rewarding work whether that be a career, raising a family, or utilizing our talents in some way. As Candide discovered — "we must cultivate our garden".

A copy of this little satirical piece has been sitting on my basement shelf for perhaps 20 years. I liked this book. No doubt Voltaire was brilliant and this book has endured for good reason. Feb 21, Rowena rated it it was amazing Shelves: classics , french-lit , favorites. Then his troubles begin, and he ends up travelling all around the world looking for his beloved. Candide experiences trial after trial, each one as bad and as far-fetched as the last. However, the way in which these trials were described did not make one feel too sorry for him; the story had more of the feel of a tragicomedy, especially with the speed of events and the gross exaggerations.

This book is a bildungsroman of sorts because we see what Candide makes of that supposition throughout his trials. Voltaire spares nobody in his attack on society. All in all, a very funny book. View all 11 comments. God that pisses me off, especially since none of those books are worth a damn, and while the authors wrongly think they have something interesting or unique to say, the thing that really disheartens me is that someone out there agrees with them.

Most people hear something that weak and simply binge drink to erase the awful memory that somebody out there could possibly believe that kind of shit. A lot of people write against these notions and somehow get their pitiful little whims published in the commentary of the local newspaper, and you wish you could choke those imbeciles as well, for giving more press to an already absurd concept.

Lastly, there are the few that decide to sit down and write a satire about a hundred pages long to denounce what they consider absolute folly. And with Candide, Voltaire relentlessly attacks the ridiculous philosophy of Liebniz and his familiars, attempting to show that this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the best of all possible worlds mainly because of the large number of utter clods totally f--king up the works. May 08, Loretta rated it it was ok Shelves: classic , myreading-challenge. The best part of this book was that it ended and with a happily ever after.

View all 5 comments. Jan 16, Trevor I no longer get notified of comments rated it really liked it Shelves: religion , philosophy , literature. This is quite a remarkable book — a satirical attack on the notion that we live in the best of all possible worlds and that therefore all that happens in such a world invariably happens for the best. Voltaire is supposed to have written the whole thing in barely three days — a rather productive half-week.

What I found particularly interesting here was the discussion of war — how the horrors of war are presented in such an off-hand way and almost invariably the utter inhumanity of what is describe This is quite a remarkable book — a satirical attack on the notion that we live in the best of all possible worlds and that therefore all that happens in such a world invariably happens for the best. The question of free will, human agency and responsibility for our actions — something that the notion of our living in the best of all possible worlds does much to undermine — is never far from the surface here, but invariably it remains just under the surface.

It would take a particularly committed optimist to go through what the characters in this book do and come out the other end still thinking the world is beyond any possibility of improvement. What I particularly liked, though, was the very end and the garden that is being tended. The book is otherwise the odyssey of a fool, but this final acceptance of life as struggle and a kind of stoic acceptance of the rewards that come from labour is quite a lovely thing, really. Even before I got to the end I kept thinking the whole way through the book about how different Eastern and Western notions of these things are and have been. When the Buddha was first confronted by the world outside his idyllic palace he realised life was suffering.

It is odd that when we in the West are confronted with much the same vision of the world around us we all too often excuse that suffering as being necessary for the greater good. View all 16 comments. Oct 22, J. This book does not stick so well in my memory in either a negative or positive way, but I think this comes from the book being a mixture of two things which I could not feel more differently about: allegory and satire. The first I find to be as silly and pointless as Aesop or Passion Plays. Characters in an allegory are oversimplified symbols, and so cannot comment on the nature of actual human beings.

The style is already so firmly affixed to cultural states and norms that it cannot really say a This book does not stick so well in my memory in either a negative or positive way, but I think this comes from the book being a mixture of two things which I could not feel more differently about: allegory and satire. The style is already so firmly affixed to cultural states and norms that it cannot really say anything beyond the dichotomous, and dualists are blinded by their egos. I do love satire, but that is generally because of the wit and skill it takes to subvert and re-imagine. Unfortunately, once one has drawn so deeply on hyperbole in a work, it loses its ability to find that necessarily uncomfortable 'grey area'--that rift between assumption and observation.

Voltaire is witty and funny, but his condemnation and praise falls only on unrealistic absolutes, and hence becomes only political rather than philosophical. In this, he becomes in many ways Shakespeare's opposite; whose characters were so vaguely sketched that they could be held representative of many disparate identities. They were just happy to be getting support. But they really like Dylan down there in the cotton country. Dylan learned Carthy's arrangement during his first trip to England in late After finishing his obligations in England including a brief appearance in a BBC drama, Madhouse on Castle Street , Dylan traveled to Italy looking for his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo , apparently unaware that she had already returned to America reportedly the same time Dylan left for England.

According to Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin , "When the Ship Comes In" was written in August "in a fit of pique, in a hotel room, after his unkempt appearance had led an impertinent hotel clerk to refuse him admission until his companion, Joan Baez , had vouched for his good character. I was working for the Circle in the Square Theatre and he came to listen all the time. He was very affected by the song that Lotte Lenya 's known for, 'Pirate Jenny'. The song was inspired by Dylan's reading a newspaper account of the incident which took place in a hotel in Maryland , in February Dylan's lyrics have an edge due to the way that Newsweek had treated Dylan. In a profile of the singer, published in October , Dylan was portrayed as someone who had lied about his middle-class origins.

Furthermore, it was implied that Dylan had plagiarised the lyrics of his best-known composition, " Blowin' in the Wind ". Stung by these untrue allegations, Dylan composed a song about the pain of having "the dust of rumor" flung in his eyes. He swiftly recorded the work a few days after the Newsweek profile appeared on October 31, The sessions for The Times They Are a-Changin ' produced a large surplus of songs, many of which were eventually issued on later compilations. According to Clinton Heylin, "perhaps the two best songs, "Percy's Song" and "Lay Down Your Weary Tune", would not make the final album, failing to fit within the narrow bounds Dylan had decided to impose on himself.

A celebration of song itself, 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune' was also an admission that there were certain songs 'no voice can hope to hum'. Steven Goldberg writes that the song depicts nature "not as a manifestation of God but as containing God within its every aspect". The Byrds released their own celebrated version of "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" in on their critically acclaimed second album, Turn! Fairport Convention recorded their own celebrated rendition of "Percy's Song" on their critically acclaimed third album, Unhalfbricking.

Written sometime in late or early , "Only a Hobo" was also recorded during these sessions but ultimately set aside. Described by Heylin as "a superior reworking of [Dylan's earlier composition] 'Man on the Street' that took as its source the 'Poor Miner's Lament'", the song is sung from the point of view of a sympathetic narrator who stumbles upon a homeless man lying dead in a gutter. Rod Stewart later released his own celebrated version of "Only a Hobo" on the critically acclaimed Gasoline Alley in II , only to reject that version as well. Dylan also recorded demo versions for publishing purposes of several songs on the album.

The demos, recorded for his first two publishing companies, Leeds Music and M. That night, he performed eight songs from his forthcoming third album, as well as several outtakes from the same album sessions including "Percy's Song", "Seven Curses", and "Lay Down Your Weary Tune". Columbia recorded the entire concert, but it was decades before a substantial portion of it was officially released in fact to date the concert in its entirety has not been released. Nevertheless, the performance was well received by the press and audience alike.

A month later, on November 22, , President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas , Texas. According to Fass, Dylan was deeply affected by it and said: "What it means is that they are trying to tell you 'Don't even hope to change things'. Three weeks to the day after Kennedy's assassination, the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee gave Dylan their annual Tom Paine award for his contribution to the civil rights movement. Dylan gave an acceptance speech at the awards ceremony held at Hotel Americana in New York. I want to accept it in my name but I'm not really accepting it in my name and I'm not accepting it in any kind of group's name, any Negro group or any other kind of group. There are Negroes - I was on the march on Washington up on the platform and I looked around at all the Negroes there and I didn't see any Negroes that looked like none of my friends.

My friends don't wear suits. My friends don't have to wear suits. My friends don't have to wear any kind of thing to prove that they're respectable Negroes. My friends are my friends, and they're kind, gentle people if they're my friends. And I'm not going to try to push nothing over. So, I accept this reward - not reward, Laughter award in behalf of Phillip Luce who led the group to Cuba which all people should go down to Cuba. I don't see why anybody can't go to Cuba. I don't see what's going to hurt by going any place. I don't know what's going to hurt anybody's eyes to see anything. On the other hand, Phillip is a friend of mine who went to Cuba.

I'll stand up and to get uncompromisable about it, which I have to be to be honest, I just got to be, as I got to admit that the man who shot President Kennedy, Lee Oswald, I don't know exactly where … what he thought he was doing, but I got to admit honestly that I too - I saw some of myself in him. I don't think it would have gone - I don't think it could go that far. But I got to stand up and say I saw things that he felt, in me - not to go that far and shoot.

Boos and hisses You can boo but booing's got nothing to do with it.

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