- Choruses from ‘The Rock’
- The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.
The lot of man is ceaseless labor,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,
Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.
I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know
That it is hard to be really useful, resigning
The things that men count for happiness, seeking
The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting
With equal face those that bring ignominy,
The applause of all or the love of none.
All men are ready to invest their money
But most expect dividends.
I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing.
The world turns and the world changes,
But one thing does not change.
In all of my years, one thing does not change,
However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.
-- T. S. Eliot
After writing yesterday's post on happiness, I listened to a podcast interview of Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches Harvard's Positive Psychology class. There are lots of news articles about it, and if you google it, you can also find his course outline, readings, etc. It's a class about the psychological studies that have been done on how people feel happy and fulfilled -- rather than Abnnormal Psychology which focuses on what makes people miserable and disturbed. One of the quotes from the interview that stood out to me was, "Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning." He says the if an experience is just meaningful, like having an important job, or a family, but you don't enjoy it for some reason, it won't lead to happiness. And it certainly won't if it's just pleasure without meaning, like casual sex or drugs. So the trick is to find things that mean something, that you also can enjoy, and try to get more of them in your life.
He also talks about how you can find ways to better enjoy the meaningful things you already have. Take music for instance, if you listen to your favorite song, then your second favorite song, and you're asked to rate them, they'd both be a 10. If you listen to them both at the same time, though, it won't be a 20, it'd be less than a 5 -- just noise. So if you're not enjoying your time with your family (very meaningful in most people's lives), check to see if you're really spending time with your family, or if you're spending it with them, and email, or housework, or TV or something else at the same time, which makes them both just kind of distracting.
He sounded like a very down to earth person, and I liked that he had scientific studies (or as good as you can get in psychology with people self reporting), that were published in the best journals, to back up his conclusions. It lifts him above the crowd of self-help gurus out there. (for some fascinating insights on self help, read, SHAM by Steve Salerno)
Here's what President Faust had to say on the topic: "Today we are barraged by multitudes of voices telling us how to live, how to gratify our passions, how to have it all. At our fingertips we have software, databases, television channels, interactive computer modems, satellite receivers, and communications networks that suffocate us with information. There are fewer places of refuge and serenity. Our young people are bombarded with evil and wickedness like no other generation. As I contemplate this prospect, I am reminded of the poet T. S. Eliot’s words: “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”" He goes on to talk about how we can focus on righteous voices to hear what we ought to be focusing our lives on.