The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I finished reading The Pursuit of Happiness, by David Myers, today.

The last chapter was on religious faith and its relation to happiness and well-being. Myers says that people of religious faith are happier than people without faith. Okay, but I don’t know what practical, therapeutic value it can offer to people who are looking for personal well-being.

Does Myers suggest that we should seek religion in our pursuit of happiness? If so, how does one develop religious faith? I rather doubt that any psychotherapist could offer a usable prescription for how to believe.

Except for this one chapter, the rest of the book was a useful resource. I was able to derive a running “formula” for “how-to-be-happy.” I will have to put “faith” aside for the time being. Unless someone can offer a practical means to achieving it...

The other thing that I found notable about this last chapter was the statement: “Totalitarianism, materialism, and self-reliant individualism have deluded us with false promises of well-being for all.” Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is big on “self-reliant individualism” - the Objectivist websites proudly state this, so one need not turn to Atlas Shrugged to confirm it.

Needless to say, I disagree with a worldview that focuses on the individual as the ultimate end in itself. It is absolutely counter, and counterproductive, to the pursuit of happiness and well-being, which is, or should be, the ultimate goal of all human beings.

I found this story especially poignant:

With good reason, we can affirm positive thinking – with but one cautionary reminder: Not all dreams come true. Among my life’s closest friends was my lovable, caring college roommate, Dan Gates. Not only were we intimate friends, so were our fiancees. As married couples still in college we therefore spent hours in one another’s apartments sharing laughter and dreams. Throughout college, Dan was fired by a dream of becoming a doctor. Although some doubted he would make it, Dan dared to believe. But the doubters were right. When no medical school accepted him, Dan was let down. Nevertheless, he picked himself up and used his biology training in teaching, with hopes of becoming a high school counselor. Again, it wasn’t to be. Although loved by his wife, friends, and students, the crushing of dreams combined with a growing sense of futility and worthlessness led Dan one summer day to pull his car off a Seattle freeway. There he descended into a ravine, pulled out a gun, and put a bullet through his broken heart.


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