Live Long & Prosper

“Behavioral scientists have spent a lot of time studying what makes us happy (and what doesn’t). We know happiness can predict health and longevity, and happiness scales can be used to measure social progress and the success of public policies. But happiness isn’t something that just happens to you. Everyone has the power to make small changes in our behavior, our surroundings and our relationships that can help set us on course for a happier life.”

-Tara Parker-Pope, “How To Be Happy.” The New York Times.

Open Question: What does it mean to be “happy”?

In brief, the author seems to take the ideas of Blue Zones:, i.e., places where people tend to be exceptionally long lived, and flesh these concepts out with “happiness” research. The nine key ideas of Blue Zones:

  1. Move naturally, or have a lifestyle that incorporates movement without doing movement for movement’s sake, a.k.a. as exercise.
  2. Have a purpose.
  3. Downshift, take time every day, week, month and year to do nothing or be contemplative.
  4. The 80% Rule for eating. Eat until you are 80% full.
  5. Eat mostly plants.
  6. Drink alcohol in moderation, 1-2 servings a day.
  7. Belong to a community.
  8. Prioritize your relationships.
  9. Make sure the relationships are with good people.

The New York TimesHow to Be Happy” reframes these into categories: Mind, Home, Relationships, Work & Money & Happy Life. Then, it attempts to provide more detailed advice.

Mind

  1. Become acquainted with cognitive behavioral therapy, i.e., become proficient at managing negative thinking.
  2. Boxed breathing for acute situations and breath focused meditation to cultivate a more equanimical disposition.
  3. Rewrite your personal story, positive without the pedestal.
  4. Exercise.
  5. Make an effort to look for the positive in any situation.

Home

  1. Find a good place to live and a good community within it to be part of.
  2. Be out in a natural setting.
  3. Keep what you need, discard the rest.

Relationships

  1. Spend time with happy people. Conversely, avoid the unhappy and the unlucky, the stupid, Hoodoos, toxic people, psychic vampires, and associated others. Obviously, the negative formulation is a hot topic here at cafebedouin.org.
  2. Get a pet. [Editors note: Pets, children and other people aren’t going to make you happy, save you, etc.]
  3. Learn to enjoy being alone. In this historical moment, with fewer communities and relationships mediated through the Internet, it’s an important skill. If you can’t manage it, find ways around it, e.g., join an intentional community. If you are turning on the radio or television to hear human voices and escape your own thoughts, you might want to think about finding ways of being better company to yourself.

Work and Money

  1. Money isn’t going to make you happy. The more money you have past a certain threshold, the more problems you will have. But, being poor is no virtue and is its own source of suffering. Try to avoid the material extremes.
  2. The New York Times wants you to find your purpose at work. Right livelihood is important, but defining ourselves through our work is a major issue post-industrial age. When surnames became necessary, people chose their occupation. Think of all the occupational last names: Smith, Miller, Cooper, etc. The problem with finding purpose at work is it often turns into our life’s purpose. Our life should be about more than work.
  3. Find ways to reclaim your time, which I interpret to mean work less.

Happy Life

  1. Be generous. Show gratitude.
  2. Do things for other people.
  3. Stop being a judgmental prick to yourself and others.

Conclusion

Something about The New York Times presentation leaves much to be desired. Is it the focus on work? Is it because much of it seems like platitudes? I’m not entirely sure. The ideas aren’t bad, particularly the ones that stem directly from Blue Zone suggestions. But, the focus on “nesting” in the bedroom, volunteering (with the implication that it be the modern form and involve some kind of institution) and so forth managed to rub me the wrong way. But, most of this is good advice, when you get down to the nut of it.

Book Review | Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells | The Ultimate Reference Book For The Magical Arts | By Judika Illes

I love this book. It is one of my favorites in the occult section of my library. It is valuable as a practical and historical tool. The book is an excellent guide for the beginning as well as experienced witch. I have never seen another book that has so many spells.    Get this; […]

Book Review | Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells | The Ultimate Reference Book For The Magical Arts | By Judika Illes

Sometimes, I see something on WordPress that makes me think strange thoughts. A book of 5,000 spells? If I cast one spell a day, that would take me over 13 years to cast them all. Maybe I should just chose the top 365 spells and do it for a year? What would a year of spellcasting be like? In my mind, I become the sorcerer’s apprentice, except sure in the knowledge that no one is going to save me.

Ah, another life lived, in my imagination.

Life is a Beautiful Dare

Carefully discern the cost and the calling. 
Then, commit for life, if you are able.
If you can't be X all day, much less for life,
try being X for the next second, minute, or hour.
Failure will never stand in your way,
unless you fail to learn, the true failure.
What you say and do, it matters.
How you survive, it matters.
You don't have to screw people
to live, as long as living is enough.
Make the effort, focus, watch your mind.
For your mind, your ideas about the world
are like trying to capture being alive
with a camera, a microphone, or a word.
It makes objects of moments. Moments
are life, succulent and raw, a ripe fruit
better tasted and felt than captured and told.
Reach for grace, weave it through your life
and the lives of others, in community. Together,
we can build a life of shared experience,
of deep connection and intimacy. Beauty
is everywhere, we only need to strive to see
through our own senses and those of others
to dip into the richness of our lived experience.
Knowing, ain't doing, my friends. I know enough,
to write this, but I also know that I am too frequently
sucking on the stone pit, the abstraction better
thrown away that prevents us from eating good fruit.
And all fruit is best, when it is shared with love.

…forgive, forgive, forgive. And then forgive again.

“In any bond of depth and significance, forgive, forgive, forgive. And then forgive again. The richest relationships are lifeboats, but they are also submarines that descend to the darkest and most disquieting places, to the unfathomed trenches of the soul where our deepest shames and foibles and vulnerabilities live, where we are less than we would like to be. Forgiveness is the alchemy by which the shame transforms into the honor and privilege of being invited into another’s darkness and having them witness your own with the undimmed light of love, of sympathy, of nonjudgmental understanding. Forgiveness is the engine of buoyancy that keeps the submarine rising again and again toward the light, so that it may become a lifeboat once more.”

-Maria Popova, “13 Life-Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings.” brainpickings.org. October 23, 2019.

It’s a beautiful sentiment. Before you go plumbing the depths of others and having them do the same in return, make sure it is done under the aegis of earned trust. Earned trust is a necessary precondition for any bond of depth and significance.

Explanation of Why Life on Earth is Made Out of Only 20 Amino Acids When Hundreds are Possible| PNAS

“One of the long-standing questions in origins-of-life research centers on how the proteinaceous side chains and the protein backbone were selected during the earliest phases of evolution. Here we have studied
oligomerization reactions of a group of positively charged amino acids, both proteinaceous and nonproteinaceous. Amino acids spontaneously oligomerized without the use of enzymes or activating agents, under mild, hydroxy acid-catalyzed, dry-down conditions. We observed that the
proteinaceous amino acids oligomerized more extensively and with greater preference for reactivity through their α-amine compared with nonproteinaceous amino acids, forming predominantly linear, protein-like backbone topologies. These findings provide a purely chemical basis for selection of the positively charged amino acids found in today’s proteins.”

Moran Frenkel-Pinter, et al. “Selective incorporation of proteinaceous over nonproteinaceous cationic amino acids in model prebiotic oligomerization reactions.” PNAS.

6 Reasons We Choose Badly in Love – The Book of Life

“The fastest, easiest and most inadvertent technique for messing up one’s life remains that of getting into a serious relationship with the wrong person: with very little effort, and without any innate taste for catastrophe, one can end up – by middle age or earlier – contemplating wholesale financial ruin, loss of parental rights, social opprobrium, homelessness, nervous exhaustion and shattered esteem, to begin a lengthy list of harrowing side-effects.”

—”6 Reasons We Choose Badly in Love.” TheSchoolofLife.com.

True, but at the same time, I’m wondering what the Book of Life suggests we do. It’s one thing to know common mistakes. It’s another to go from where you are now to somewhere better. Going to go a little deeper here and see if there’s anything useful.

Letter of Recommendation: Washing Dishes – The New York Times

“…a life under constant threat of novelty isn’t a life; it’s exhaustion.

Washing dishes by hand, I give myself the chance to remember that this is wrong — that most of life is ordinary; that ordinary isn’t the enemy but instead something nourishing and unavoidable, the bedrock upon which the rest of experience ebbs and flows. Embrace this — the warm water, the pruned hands, the prismatic gleam of the bubbles and the steady passage from dish to dish to dish — and feel, however briefly, the breath of actual time, a reality that lies dormant and plausible under all the clutter we pile on top of it. A bird makes its indecipherable call to another bird, a song from a passing car warps in the Doppler effect and I’m reminded, if only for a moment, that I need a lot less than I think I do and that I don’t have to leave my kitchen to get it.”

—Mike Powell, “Letter of Recommendation: Washing Dishes.” The New York Times. June 4, 2019.