Laura posts on the industry that’s grown up around “happiness.” One of the latest books in this industry is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I’ve been reading Gretchen’s blog for a while now, since before the book came out. I actually have a small collection of similar blogs that I label “Personal Development.” I don’t agree with everything in Gretchen’s or any of these blogs, but they often have posts that give me interesting ideas or help me to refocus. I told my dad about The Happiness Project book and he immediately downloaded it onto his Kindle. He likes it so far. After going through a tragedy like he has, I think it helps to remember the little things that bring you joy. We’re cut from the same cloth, me and my dad. We’re always trying to improve ourselves, our minds or our bodies or both. Trying to be happier or healthier is, for me, about taking things to the next level.
Laura references a TED talk that she had referenced before and that I watched when she did. It focuses on the relationship between cultures where people live a simple life surrounded by friends and family and longevity. To live longer, it suggests, we need to do more physical activity, like farming and laundry and walking to the market and spend time with people we care about. As Laura suggests, we’ve gotten a long way from this kind of life. Like her, I sometimes fantasize about moving away to a farm. But I figure I’ll be as isolated there as I am here. Here, I’m isolated in part by the technology that takes people to jobs far away or jobs online. Leisure time is spent inside in front of the tv or again, via car, to places elsewhere. As I’ve been trying to simplify my life, I’ve tried to moderate my use of those technologies. Yes, the Internet keeps me connected, but being online all the time doesn’t always make me happy. I recognize at times that I’m filling a gap with mindless online activity rather than finding something more productive to do. I’ve been without the Internet all day. I wrote in the morning, then I worked out, called about the Internet outage, and then spent over two hours cleaning the kitchen. I mean really cleaning the kitchen: wiping down cabinets, scrubbing walls, mopping the floor kind of cleaning. I listened to music and sang out loud while I did it and it actually made me happy.
No, I don’t always know what makes me happy, and cleaning the kitchen wouldn’t always make me happy. But I like books and blogs that prod me a little to pay attention to what does and doesn’t make me happy. Too many people plod through life, going to work, trying to get ahead, and not thinking at all about what they’re doing. I follow Socrates: the unexamined life is truly not worth living.