I finished a great book today, Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, that has taken me way too long to read (thanks, grad school). But it was definitely worth the effort. The thesis is that humans are pretty terrible predictors of what will actually bring us happiness. (If you want to read the book, scroll down to after the photo of the book, as here be spoilers.) The final paragraph of the book discusses hogwash, which is actually pig food, or more accurately, kitchen waste (wash) that’s fed to pigs. (I admit to having never before considered where the term hogwash originated.) Hogwash is intended to make pigs happy; the human version—pleasant falsehoods—is meant to make humans “happy.” It often consists of messages that serve preservation of the social order that are disguised as paths to personal happiness. I can remember many such messages.
Gilbert says the persistence of this hogwash along with our human belief in personal uniqueness make us resistant to believing others’ experiences with happiness. And our own imaginations, for reasons he details throughout the book, are not up to the task of predicting happiness. Others’ lived experiences are actually much better predictors of future happiness. (I know, surprising, right?) I think that vision of uniqueness is a huge factor in the current divide in our country and many others.
Staying on the subject of our fallible thinking processes, one of my friends shared this video yesterday. Can you relate? I sure could. And I think that the tendency to focus on the negative is exacerbated in our current environment. Without the physical presence of our team members to provide positive feedback, it’s really easy to focus on the occasional piece of criticism. Try to hang on to the good.
So, what does happiness look like? Arthur C. Brooks teaches a course at Harvard Business School on happiness. For real. And he has a new column in The Atlantic called “How to Build a Life.” The first installment offers three equations for “calculating” well being. The most recent column considers why so many people are unhappy in retirement, which felt very connected to Stumbling on Happiness.
How do we predict what will make us happy in retirement, especially now? I have always thought I would travel a lot in retirement. My retirement is still several years away, so maybe that will be possible, but I need another vision to sustain me while that one doesn’t look promising. Brooks says many people miss the conclusion to the hero’s journey—coming home and facing one’s own demons—and suffer or make poor decisions in retirement. His advice is to “plan to spend the last part of your life serving others, loving your family and friends, and being a good example to those still in the first three stages of their own hero’s journey.” Worth contemplating and developing a new vision—not giving up on personal dreams, but incorporating service and mentorship into them.
Whew. Discussions of what the more immediate future could look like will have to wait—it’s late.
Today was a rest day. Lots of reading, a long walk (with Western tanagers!), and LEGO. I treated myself to a Series 20 Minifigure early in the day. I bought two of these (they come sealed in single bags, grab bag style) from Amazon when they dropped the price days after the Series 20 release (which I found odd, since they are now sold out). The first one is:
a girl in a pea pod costume. That’s even how LEGO describes it. Odd. And what’s with the apple? Serious question, if anyone has thoughts.
This oddness did not stop me from from building the final portion of the Hogwarts Express to top off this graduation weekend celebratory rest day.
The Dementor is as creepy as it should be…
In this final section, there was actually one piece missing. I found a somewhat adequate substitute. I guess missing pieces happen when you have sets that consist of 800 pieces, many of which are tiny.
Here’s the final train.
And the whole set.
It was fun to build and satisfying to finish. Stay tuned for a return to the Advent Calendar and new sets when they arrive. And listen to the positive feedback. You are enough.