Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The How of Happiness
by Sonja Lyubomirsky
-Bought this at a book sale, read it off and on before bed. It's like one of those books full of laboratory research on psychology students that is generalized into advice about how to change your life for the better. It's not the most inspirational book, but it's definitely full of things to do. I guess it tries to be comprehensive. The large quantity of activities and suggestions in the book ironically seemed depressingly overwhelming to me. I guess it would be a good reference book to have around and pull out every once in a while. Things like: be grateful, savor the pleasures of life, spend quality time with your loved ones, have goals, don't work too hard, meditate, etc.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

5,000 BC and other Philosophical Fantasies
The Tao is Silent
by Raymond Smullyan

-I got these two books by Raymond Smullyan, along with his "Budget of Paradoxes," from the university library. I didn't buy them. I stumbled on the paradox book in the humor section which is near the comic strip section, and then I saw in the "Other Books by" that Smullyan also wrote books about Taoism and Zen, and that he wrote another book called "A Theory of Formal Systems" and Godel. My approach to the big questions has gotten more and more "formal" over the last years, so it seemed like this guy might be my guy. But after reading these two book I don't know anymore. At least not in terms of how good his books are. They're not heavy reading, but also they're not very good books—for several reasons. They are all over the place and annoyingly pleased with themselves and there are approx. 800 typos in them. Taoists don't proofread I guess. I'm glad I read these books though because it made me realize/remember that even when writing about something that is "unsayable" there's better or worse ways to go about it (or not). Ironically, there's sometimes a tone-deafness with ironic people. When cleverness becomes annoying...it's like, shouldn't your cleverness also make you sensitive to how annoying your cleverness is making you? It's like if you were listening to a lecture called "On Having a Sense of Humor" and the guy giving the lecture was a real "jokester" and occasionally made you smile but more often made you wince, and the digressions and half-assedness started to become tedious, and you begin to doubt whether he has a full understanding of the subject he's talking about, and so the message is undermined by its delivery. You think maybe he should do a better job of lecturing on Humor, maybe he should take it more seriously.* Back to the books—they have their moments. At the end of the Tao book he has a character say something** which might remind you of freshman dorm room philosophizing, but on the other hand felt to me like it got to the point pretty well: if you search for an objective method for understanding life and everything, what objective method should guide your search? And isn't it a subjective thing to feel that you need an objective method? And so on. So what should you do? The answer is: once you see that "subjective" and "objective" are two sides of the same coin, that's it. You are where you are, doing what you do. At this point, arguing that one should or shouldn't do anything is "as silly as to argue with an unripe apple that it is time that it should fall from the tree. When the apple is ready, it will not need to be told that it should fall; it will do so of its own accord."

*Am I doing it too? (By pointing it out am I?)
**Yeah...many chapters are in dialogue form...I know...sigh