Delight Springs

Friday, October 11, 2013

Happily we flow along

"Knowing truth and facing reality is essential to a happy life."

Last insight you'd ever have expected from a Dursley, but Shannon and her fellow Wanderers in CoPhi let Mrs. D have it yesterday. What a dramatically impressive Potter report they did, complete with Blooper Reel and authentic Hogwarts comestibles! They need to share it with the world.

I later shared the last remnant of the Butter Beer with students in HAP 101, one of whom-- obviously not a fan-- unhappily discovered its essence as cream soda. No magic. Face reality, James.

(Daniel Radcliffe was on the radio right before the Wanderers' report, btw. Heard him during my eerily solitary bikeride through shutdown-shuddered Stones River.)

In HAP 101 we learned of Matthieu Ricard's habits of happiness, meditation, mindfulness, freedom from negative emotions etc., and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on Flow ("the secret to happiness"). Does it make you happy to achieve an optimally balanced engagement of your particular skills and interests with challenges that elicit them? Some of us seemed to think that sounds like too much work, but Csik.'s point is that it feels effortless and liberating.

I recalled The Monk and the Philosopher, an insightful text in my old Vandy "Meaning of Life" course. Ricard's dad is the philosopher, Jean Francois Revel.

We professional western philosophers are congenitally, occupationally suspicious of "doctrinal" solutions to the problem of the meaning of life (whatever we think that means). We're especially leery of talk about "direct contemplation of absolute truth, beyond all concepts," etc. Ricard and the Buddhists insist, though, that a profound non-doctrinal "inner transformation" of the sort they seek is available to all.

We'll have our little Fall Break and then, guided by Owen Flanagan and Bodhisattva's Brain, we'll talk about it. But we must not just talk, that would miss their point entirely.

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