When I sit down to journal, it’s usually most productive for me to be prospective; to record my observations on my past actions and thinking with the intention of setting out ideas and plans for self-improvement. But sometimes, right in the middle of a large train of thoughts, I’ll veer into this stream-of-consciousness recording of all the things I did in the previous day. It’s usually a mind-boggling list. And it’s usually only a small portion of the stuff I’d hoped to get to that day. Day after week after month after year this appears in my journals. It’s absurd. I’ll never finish even a fraction of what I daily hope to do. And yet, every day I continue to expend tremendous energy just to appear normal.
It would be easy to conclude that an absurdist view of life rules out happiness and leads anyone with any sense to despair at her very existence. And yet in his book, Camus concludes, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” This may seem impossible, but in fact, this unexpected twist in Camus’ philosophy of life and happiness can help you change your perspective and see your daily struggles in a new, more equanimous way.
~ Arthur C. Brooks from, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2023/03/finding-joy-happiness-in-absurd-boredom-stress/673248/
Fortunately, it’s clear to me that I’m not alone in thinking what I’m doing is absurd. (For example, Jake Gyllenhall touches on it in a great conversation with Sam Jones.)
HomeNet could be (and has been) interpreted as an indictment of the internet, or screens, or modern communications technology in general. In truth, it illustrates a much simpler truth about love and happiness: Technology that crowds out our real-life interaction with others will lower our well-being and thus must be managed with great care in our lives. In order to reap their full benefits, we should use digital tools in ways that enhance our relationships.
~ Arthur C. Brooks from, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2022/09/technology-happiness-communication-relationships/671586/
I’m reminded of some comments by Rafe Kelley.
If junk food is flavor divorced from nutrition, then pornography is sexuality divorced from the context of relationships. Video games are thrill divorced from physicality. And so you take these boys who have this inherent aggression and you let them play Fortnite, and they can play all day without any self-regulation from having the physical demands of actual rough and tumble play. The problem is that it so easily out-competes the actual thing that we need, which is the real physical play.
~ Rafe Kelley from a video short from an Instagram post, so I’ll just link you to his Evolve. Move. Play. project.
Brooks and Kelley are talking about different technologies, but I think they’re both pointing toward the “divorce” being the actual issue. The arrival in the living room (mentioned by Brooks) divorced [I’ll say] the mental stimulation from the other people in the house.
Particularly radical was Franklin’s idea about who could pursue happiness in this way. In Europe at the time, mainly aristocratic men with means would have been able to pursue lifelong learning in a formal sense. Franklin rejected this. He believed that “this pursuit was not the province of the upper classes,” Burns told me, “but rather for everyone, from the wealthy to the masses.” Burns hastened to add that this idea was nowhere near expansive enough in Franklin’s time—Franklin himself had slaves in his household, and equal rights for women were still far off—but this philosophy set the unique American aspiration in motion.
~ Arthur C. Brooks from, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2022/05/ben-franklin-happiness-self-improvement-advice/629767/
There’s certainly a lot one can say about Franklin ranging from great to terrible. He feels close enough in time that he should be at least partly relatable and understandable, like a quirky uncle who has some sketchy ideas but is generally a good egg. But he isn’t; He isn’t that close in time and the reality of his life is all over the map. It’s difficult, but important, to try to give proper credit for radical, positive ideas despite other blemishes, mistakes, or egregious errors. Brooks does a tidy job of focusing on Franklin’s advancement of the batshit–crazy notion that everyone could do the absolutely selfish thing of pursuing their own happiness, and that would actually make the communal society better. Alas, it’s humanity’s loss that such radical ideas didn’t surface sooner.
Whenever I hear about these incidents, I think of the best life advice I ever got, from my older brother: “Don’t freak out.” He was giving me a parenting tip, but really, it applies to everything in life. Freaking out—“emotional flooding,” in social-science jargon—never seems to make matters better, and we nearly always regret it. The fact that freak-outs may be happening with particular frequency right now is an opportunity to understand the phenomenon in ourselves and learn to manage our emotions better. If we do, we will be equipped with a skill that helps us be better friends, parents, spouses, and professionals, even when the pandemic is nothing but a distant memory.
~ Arthur C. Brooks from, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2022/04/how-to-manage-emotions-and-reactions/629692/
I truly hope you’ve not experienced flooded emotions, recently or otherwise. For me, this is a big part of how my atypical brain works. I don’t have an emotional range. I have two settings labeled zero and eleven. Eleven means I love sappy movies, can get really engaged in helping people, and much more. But, I had to learn how to disengage when my emotions flare; I had to become a master at pausing while deciding what I want to happen.
But having a level–zero non-response to most everything means I can function very well under duress. For example, if the roof of the house is mid-repair, it’s been raining hard for hours, the ceiling is leaking in various places, and then the hard-wired fire alarm shorts out (ie, goes off) when water gets into a sensor, the deafening, in–house klaxon sounds, my cellphone rings as the monitoring company reports there’s a fire… Well, level-zero means I can repeatedly work the keypad to disable the fire alarm, even though it goes off again in a few seconds, give the person on my cellphone my alarm code to avert the fire department’s being dispatched, and then quickly work to physically disable the alarm system (even though it’s intentionally tamper– and disable–resistant.) All without my heart–rate rising; while actually feeling bored by it all.