Saturday, January 28, 2012

Layer 508 . . . Happiness, Desert Island Discs, Kirsty Young, Contentment, Intelligences, Philosophy, de Botton and Zen

It's Desert Island Discs Weekend. Hurrah!
Castaway: 70 Years of Desert Island Discs
Kirsty Young tells the story of the long-running programme as it celebrates its 70th anniversary and investigates what has made it such an enduring part of the radio schedule.

Why Desert Island Discs is still in the groove
Who are the classic radio show's most colourful castaways of the past 70 years?
As part of the 70th birthday celebrations, we are all asked to choose our own favourite eight discs – results will be broadcast on BBC national and local radio tomorrow after the 70th anniversary Desert Island Discs at 11.15am on Radio 4. Will national tastes have altered yet again? Will Ralph Vaughan Williams have been demoted? We will soon find out.

Is Kirsty Young the most intelligent and attractive woman in the UK? If not, then who is? And we're not just talking intellect here. Sense of humour and sense of the ridiculous are also key.

I don't want my children to be happy just to be content and have self worth, says Kirsty Young
The presenter of Desert Island Discs said that "life is complicated" and that her children will be "bloody lucky" if they even glimpse true happiness.
The 43-year-old, who has two daughters and two stepchildren, was speaking as the BBC radio programme, the world's longest running, celebrated its 70th year.

So what does Kirsty Young mean by 'being content'?
The presenter of Desert Island Discs has caused a stir by saying she doesn’t want her children to be happy.
Young knows the value of not having it too easy. Her Scottish childhood was tough; her parents divorced, there wasn’t a great deal of money, and she has in the past paid tribute to her mother for instilling in her the ambition to do better for herself.
Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, political biographer and co-founder of the campaigning group Action on Happiness, was horrified by her comments. “She is totally and profoundly wrong,” he says. “I feel sorry for her children. Every parent should want their child to be happy more than anything else in life, to achieve that sense of deep fulfilment, that they are experiencing life to the full.”
Why is Seldon so obtuse? He's talking here about being fulfilled, and experiencing life to the full. Is that all there is to happiness? Is it possible to feel fulfilled and to 'experience life to the full' ALL of the time? Is there no place in life for sadness and melancholy? Can you experience happiness whilst NOT 'experiencing life to the full'.
Seldon is in the vanguard of those credited with promoting a “happiness agenda” in government circles. His school was the first in the country to offer pupils lessons in happiness. “It is all about psychological health,” he explains, “about connectedness and engagement, about relationships, doing good, appreciating nature and art. Happiness underpins them all. At a time when we are experiencing so much mental illness, teaching youngsters about happiness enables them to see what they can be and to strive for it.” In other words, his take on happiness may mean exactly the same as what Kirsty Young labels contentment.
Doh! Lessons in happiness indeed! He's talking about enabling young people to develop all of their intelligences - personal, social, emotional, spiritual, etc. Happiness is then a by-product of all-round development and reaching one's full potential as a human being. Happiness cannot UNDERPIN this process. How the hell do you acquire happiness in the first place - especially if you're living in dire circumstances? Like in certain public schools.

Happiness doesn't cause you or enable you to develop good relationships, do good to others, appreciate nature and art, etc. Happiness is a by-product of these things.

Seldon's already been told these things - so why doesn't he listen? Especially when he agreed with those of us who were telling him that you can't actually teach young people to be happy!

This article goes on to say,
The emphasis on happiness also worries writer and mother of four Sarah Johnson. “It all sounds so easy,” says the author of The Christian Parents’ Toolkit and Parents on Parenting. “Happiness is very much a state I associated with childhood, all that living in the moment, immediacy and enjoyment. But I cannot say that, as they have grown up towards adulthood, what I have wanted most for my children is for them to be happy, over and above everything else, because that carries with it for me the implication that their lives should be about gratifying their immediate desires. As a goal in life that way only unhappiness lies.”
Seldon is keen, though, to draw a distinction between happiness and pleasure. “Pleasure is when you only think about yourself. It is always about having material satisfaction – good food, another body next to you, a smart car, and it is time-specific. It doesn’t last. But in the 10 routes to happiness that Action for Happiness has identified, serving others and volunteering is among the highest. Happiness has a spiritual value,” he stresses, “with a small s.”
The same message is promoted by Alain de Botton in his new book, Religion for Atheists. The great faiths, he suggests, have always managed to make their followers happy, so why shouldn’t atheists do the same by establishing their own “temples of tenderness”?
But de Botton is misrepresenting religion, says Mark Vernon, the author of Wellbeing and a former Anglican priest. “Religions aren’t keen on the word happiness. It is there in what Christianity means when it uses terms like 'blessed’, but it also understands how complicated it can be. In modern terms, happiness tends to describe only if you are up or down, and my instinct would be to forget it as thin and shallow if you want to talk about spirituality.”
Which brings us back to the attraction of contentment felt by Kirsty Young and others.


Alain de Botton is annoying. He talked this morning on Radio 4 about Zen Buddhism and about religion as though they're one and the same thing. They're NOT. There is no God and no worship in Zen Buddhism, which is a philosophy and a method of developing higher levels of spiritual intelligence. De Botton is a clever man and a philosopher, and he ought to know better.

Saturday Live -



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