Friday, June 10, 2011

The Happiness Hypothesis

Apparently, we've started a kind of informal book club out here. With the weather being so crappy, I've spent a ton of time at the vise; tying flies and listening to audio books. I'm almost done with The Happiness Hypothesis and will be reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance next. Tim Linehan suggested it. Apparently, many of the guides out here have read it.

As for The Happiness Hypothesis, it's not your typical light, rainy Sunday afternoon read. Jonathan Haidt takes a multi-disciplinary approach to defining the meaning of life using the Bible, Buddha, and a number of other philosophies from some of the great thinkers throughout time and then postulates what makes us happy and how we can find happiness in our own lives. This is really dumbing it down but he pretty much debunks the myth of finding happiness within and breaks it down to having a career that brings us esteem and finding love in our lives either through deep friendships and companionship, family, or passionate love with a partner.

There is much more to the book than that; let me just say that first. But as I listened to the audio-book, I definitely used the concepts he talks about to see how my own life either follows the hypothesis or doesn't and how that reflects happiness in my own life. I'll be honest, real happiness has eluded me as of late and the book makes a lot of sense as to why. It didn't really bring up any crazy "a ha" moments but kind of put it all together in a neat package for me. It also reaffirmed to me that one can't just find happiness within as Buddha would tell us. We need relationships and people in our lives to reflect back to us that we are valued.

When I look at my own life, I'm happy with the career I've chosen for now. I'm ok with living kind of a minimalist life and I really do enjoy guiding. Through guiding, I've also met a lot of people and feel like I've been able to contribute to a lot of people's happiness, which in turn, brings me gratification and contributes to my happiness. But I also look at the relationships in my life and have seen how guiding has hindered fostering any close relationships.

I haven't had a serious girlfriend in years. And when I did, all we did was fought because of not being able to spend time with each other or because I didn't call her back right away because I was on the river or whatever it was. And as for nurturing friendships, you gotta make hay when the sun shines right? So many of the plans to spend time with people fall through last minute because a trip comes up and in the current economy, you just can't turn them down.

As for friendships within the guiding community, I would say I have a lot of acquaintancies. I have friends for sure and people that have supported me and I don't want to seem ungrateful but as for real close friends, the dynamic really isn't conducive to it with how much ego is out there and how much guys compete. I remember some sage advise from Mr. Mark Raisler who said to me a few years ago, "Russ, you have no friends out here..." I don't think he was saying it as a rip on me or a criticism but just as a way of telling me to look out for number one because nobody else will. The crazy thing is it's much less cutthroat up here on the Mo than other places I've been to and I would consider Mark a friend.

I don't want to turn this into my own personal pity party, I'm just reflecting openly. I chose this life-style and I chose to move 1,000 miles from my family. But the flaw with the book is to tell us what we need in our lives and not to get us to think about how we obtain those things. I think the real value of the book is to parents who are raising kids that will eventually have to deal with similar issues in an ever changing world where virtue is less relevant and personal relationships are increasingly becoming more and more shallow. I guess that's what I'm going to take from the book; "do" what you love and never take for granted friendships and community and if your lucky enough to have found love, do what you can to never lose it. Not all that profound but that's what I got.

Keep 'em where they live...

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