bird poops on plum branch


Buster Benson

No advice column.

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happiness versus meaning
bird poops on plum branch
Something Mr. Linderman said in the episode of Heroes that we watched yesterday has been sticking with me.  It's from season one, the first time he's actually seen in the show actually.  Cooking in his Las Vegas hotel's kitchen.

Mr. Linderman: "You see, I think there comes a time when a man has to ask himself whether he wants a life of happiness or a life of meaning."

Peter Petrelli: "I'd like to have both."

Mr. Linderman: "It can't be done. Two very different paths. I mean, to be truly happy a man must live absolutely in the present, and with no thought of what's gone before, and no thought of what lies ahead. But a life of meaning, a man is condemned to wallow in the past, and obsess about the future."

This is basically the same conclusion that anyone who undertakes meditation runs into at some point.  The present moment is the only place where you can actually have or be anything.  Anything abstract, or in the past or the future, can't be possessed in anything but an imaginary way.  Amongst those things are meaning, purpose, ideals, narrative, etc.  The Buddhists and other meditation cultures prize this present moment above pretty much anything else.  Western culture prizes meaning and purpose above almost anything else. 

The problem comes when you desire meaning in the present moment, or true happiness from the past and future.  Desire doesn't worry about whether or not the thing you desire is available in the place that you're looking for it. 

Anyway, my thinking doesn't go much beyond that.  I pretty much just like any argument that doesn't put the present moment into some kind of ultimate nirvana treasure at the end of the rainbow sense.  I just never really enjoyed living in a world without meaning, narrative, and purpose.  They're some of humanity's greatest inventions.  And, while that happiness of the present moment doesn't really exist in a life of meaning, there are replacement emotions like passion, excitement, sadness, appreciation, and drive that are just as rich and rewarding as the more elusive true happiness of the present moment.

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I think you can find happiness, later in life, by having successfully lived a life of meaning.

What makes you think this?

And is this kind of happiness more like the appreciation of a good story? Or, pride? I think it's definitely a different emotion than that happiness of being fully in the present moment.

I think happiness fully in the moment is probably a myth of youth. I have a hunch real happiness only comes from a life well lived.

Viktor Frankl would say

that happiness requires meaning.'s_Search_for_Meaning

(have you read it? I think it's an interesting book if only because it actually deals with suffering as a positive part of life unlike a lot of modern "self help" sorts of books that see suffering as only a sign that something is wrong and needs fixed).

Re: Viktor Frankl would say

I've heard of that book, and might have even checked it out a while ago. Maybe it's time to take another look!

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