by Thomas O’Dwyer
Is there anything more depressing than the happiness industry? Never mind Google, just check out Amazon Books for something to read about this mental snake-oil, and just look at that — “50,000 results for Happiness.” With so much advice available, it’s hard to grasp how there could be any misery left in the world. At the top of the list among the “happiness projects” and “happiness how-tos” sits The Art of Happiness by no less a global guru than His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet. But wait; there’s less. The small print reveals that the Dalai Lama didn’t even write the book. It is a set of “observations and analysis” by some American psychoanalyst who “echos” the ideas of the world’s favourite holy man. I wonder if he’s happy with that.
The British feminist Lynne Segal has suggested that the “happiness agenda” ought to be named the “misery agenda”. She argues that it adapts people to the causes of their misery, rather than addressing them. That’s a nod to Professor Pangloss, of whom more later. The Dalai Lama is elsewhere reliably quoted as teaching that “the purpose of our lives is to be happy.” The American people’s genius, Benjamin Franklin, wrote that “wine is constant proof that God loves to see us happy.” Come on guys — this is a serious existential topic, and that’s all you’ve got?
The mystery of happiness, once owned by ancient high philosophy, is now all over the place. As with so much else in the disintegrated temples of ancient values, we can probably blame the Americans. The ancient wisdom of the Greeks, of Marcus Aurelius, the Buddha, Confucius and other giants has been deconstructed into streams of glib cliches that can be transformed into dollars by slapping them on mugs, T-shirts, Hallmark cards and blurbs for “self-help” trash. What have they wrought, those framers of the U.S. Constitution, by sticking into it that fuzzy inalienable right to “the pursuit of Happiness”? Read more »