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Don't Aim for Happiness

Theodore Dalrymple, Psychology Today, 25-04-2015.

The other day I walked into Hodges Figgis, the largest bookshop in Dublin, and found a table of books on display devoted entirely to the achievement of happiness through mindfulness, the other methods of finding it being consigned to the shelves.

One [of the books] told me that my mind was a creative space provided I selected ‘my positive purpose.’ Since these books sell, some of them in large quantities, I presume that someone must find them helpful, or at any rate live in hope that they will be helpful. What is completely absent from them, however, is the tragic dimension of life, an awareness of which is necessary for consolation in a life in which suffering and loss are inevitable.

Instead of Mindfulness in 8 Weeks, read and memorise a poem by A E Housman in 8 minutes:
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

As it happens, I live near those blue remembered hills, I see them shining plain; but the thought that past content is lost and cannot be recovered, far from being merely depressing as manuals of happiness might lead you to expect, is rendered consolatory by the poem, as massage on a muscle in spasm causes both pain and relief.

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