Minimizing Pain, Maximizing Joy on the Hidden Brain


In this NPR podcast from the Hidden Brain, the concepts of pain and joy are explored. It is a nice introduction to stoic philosophy. In the process they touch on the importance of valuing what you have and spending less time on negative visualization. At the core, this discussion is about being satisfied with simplicity and “doing what you can with what you have where you are”.

https://www.listennotes.com/embedded/e/7560bac009d24539aa41059f9e71520e/

I would love to hear what you think after listening to it. 

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Cicadas


Photo by Yao-Yu Tsai

whirling dervishes
of the humid summer skies
sing outside my door

****

call to mind the past
with dull stacato melody
of the cicada

Ingredients


Ah… the ingredients of happiness according to Epicurus:

1. Friends (companions)
2. Freedom (financially independent – not imprisoned by unbearable bosses)
3. Analyzed life (time to think, reflect, leave the distractions of the world)

It sounds like an easy enough recipe to follow, but I’m increasingly convinced that our modern lives are making it almost impossible for a person to achieve the happiness Epicurus spoke of.  Why?  Well, to begin with, lets look simply at freedom.  Epicurus suggests that we need to free ourselves from desire.  It sounds like an attainable goal, and yet, I find that it is a daily struggle because while I don’t need to be rich, I do want to be secure.

My DESIRE for security drives many of my decisions and keeps me imprisoned.  Why do I need a home in this neighborhood and not that neighborhood? Security.  Why do I need this car and not that car? Security. Why do I need to work fulltime instead of parttime? Security. Yes, the security that comes from living in a “good” neighborhood, the security that comes from owning a “reliable” car, the security that comes from having a job that provides health insurance and a retirement plan. I give up some of my freedom for the promise of security.

So, perhaps, at least from my perspective, it seems we need to add one more element to the list. Maybe if we could fulfill our need for:

1. Friends (companions)
2. Freedom (financially independent – not imprisoned by unbearable bosses)
3. Analyzed life (time to think, reflect, leave the distractions of the world)
4. Security

maybe then we could find the happiness that alludes us.

 

Crazy Maze


In chapter one, McCarty reminds us that the world around us pushes us to do more, be more, consume more:

page 11 “We’re all looking for an ideal life”

Sometimes it is hard for us to break out of the “crazy maze” and make a simple life for ourselves.  I think this song is a nice reminder.

page 8 “Leave behind the swirling pace set by those around you”

Crazy maze

Money don’t make my world go ’round
I’m reaching up for the higher ground
to a warm and peaceful place
I can rest my weary face
Life’s answers we’re trying to find
battling inside our minds
where do I go from here?
Will all my friends be there?

Cause we’re livin, livin in a crazy maze
and we’re fighting, we’re fighting to rise above the haze
Light’s at the end of the tunnel
Sometimes the journey is long
There are many theories
on who’s right and who’s wrong

Pressure is on I have to choose
I’ve got nothing to lose
I close my eyes I take a chance
Now I dance a different dance
What’s the key to a happy life?
A healthy mind and lots of spice.
Running barefoot through the trees
that’s my idea of free

I’ve packed my bags I’m on my way
I don’t know where I’m going to stay
I’m on a train bound destiny
I can set my spirit free

Cause we’re livin, we’re livin in a crazy maze
and we’re fighting, we’re fighting to rise above the haze
Light’s at the end of the tunnel
Sometimes the journey is long
There are many theories
on who’s right and who’s wrong

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUfnwMC4jZk

Simplicity


While reading the first chapter of McCarthy’s book, twice I wrote the name of this movie in the margins.  The first time was in response to the following line in the text: ” We overlook ordinary joys completely when we overextend our reach into the world of things” (p. 3). The second time was when she said: “Many pleasures come with painful consequences that override the original enjoyment” (p. 6).

I think this movie is a great accompaniment to Epicurus and Joko-Beck.  Why don’t you give it a try and let me know what you think.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… Spring

Okay, I get it, now what?


So, I’ve read Epicurus, and I think I get it.  Our happiness comes from having friends, freedom, and reflection.  Or perhaps better framed, happiness will come our way only when we have these things.  But can it really be that simple?

Let’s start with friends.  It is easy enough to have chums you enjoy a beer with after work, but finding the kind of friends Epicurus was talking about, how easy is that? Or am I simply setting the bar too high.  Maybe he was talking about the guys at the bar?

And freedom. Freedom from what? From desire.  Easier said than done in our consumer world, but certainly worth working towards.

Finally, there is the reflection part.  This one would be easy enough to fulfill if only I didn’t have to work for a living.

So, what is the answer? How can we find the essence of the kind of life Epicurus champions while living in the modern world?