Lightly Child, Lightly

In the midst of financial news that seems to get grimmer by the day, one story of a man trying to escape caught my eye. Andrew Formica, the 51-year-old CEO of a $68 billion investment firm, abruptly quit his job. He did not have another job waiting—or anything else, it seems. When pressed about his plans, he said, “I just want to go sit at the beach and do nothing.”

Easy, right? Not for a lot of us, it isn’t. Besides the fact that you need to have a good deal of financial security to quit working, “it is awfully hard work doing nothing,” as Algernon said in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I can relate to this. I work long hours and have sometimes planned to go away and do nothing just for a week or two. But when I try, I find I am utterly incompetent: Idle chitchat drives me crazy; I get the jimmy legs 30 minutes into a movie; sitting on a beach is a form of torture. Whenever I make an effort to rest, my mind always wanders back to the work I am fleeing.

As difficult as it may be, Formica has the right idea. For the sake of happiness, strivers and hard-driving work machines of any income level need to learn to stop. If you are in this category, nothing should be high on your to-do list

Choose soft fascination.

During your unstructured vacation, choose activities that can gently hold your attention while also leaving you plenty of bandwidth to mentally meander. This is what three University of Michigan psychologists call “soft fascination,” and you might find it by walking in nature, or watching the waves. In contrast, “hard fascination” (found by, say, watching television) occupies attention and rules out mind-wandering. Research has found that soft fascination is more restorative than hard fascination. For example, in a 2018 study, survey respondents said that walking in nature was 15 percent more effective at helping them “get away from it all” than watching television…

If scheduling leisure seems unnatural to you, consider the way good health requires you to schedule your meals and exercise at more or less a certain time each day for a particular amount of time. Schedule “white space” in your day, and keep it off-limits from the tyrannical urgencies of your work (as well as from eating and exercise). If your guilt creeps in, or if you’re worried that “wasting” this time will somehow make you poorer, try to remember the words of the Welsh poet William Henry Davies: “A poor life this if, full of care, / We have no time to stand and stare.”

— Arthur C. Brooks, from “How to Embrace Doing Nothing” (The Atlantic, August 4, 2022)


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 6:51 a.m. May 8, 2022. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.
  • Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Neeson. Revenge. Being more virtuous.

movie,gun,pointed gun

This has been clanking around upstairs for weeks. “Taken” is a story of an ex-CIA agent whose daughter is kidnapped by an Albanian gang engaged in human trafficking. They drug, prostitute and auction off young women. I dismiss the probabilities of the predicable storyline. I cheer him on through the mayhem and destruction right to the Disney finish. His daughter is saved!

I watched the movie in the attic. A dark room dripping with evil. I finished watching the movie and headed outside, I needed to get to the Sun.

I have a daughter.
It’s just a movie.
This evil actually exists.
It’s just entertainment.
Getting the bad guys felt so good.

Then why do you feel so dark now?
And why do you watch these things?

I came across this op-ed essay by Arthur C. Brooks titled The Trick to Being More Virtuous and asked myself:

  1. Demand outstrips supply for this “poison.” Am I further poisoning the well with my spend and my attention?
  2. What does my next “click” say about my desires?
  3. Will the next movie or book or article that I read, “elevate” me?
  4. Like that third donut, can I pass it by and “seek personal moral improvement?”

Here’s a few excerpts from Brooks’ essay:

[Read more…]

Happiness? You control how much? 12%

happiness

“HAPPINESS has traditionally been considered an elusive and evanescent thing. To some, even trying to achieve it is an exercise in futility. It has been said that “happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you…Social scientists have caught the butterfly. After 40 years of research, they attribute happiness to three major sources:

  1. Genes: ~ 50% of happiness is genetically determined.
  2. One off-events: Up to 40% comes from things that have occurred in our recent past – but won’t last long. Happiness dissipates quickly from a big raise, a new job, a move to California.
  3. Values: 12%.  That might not sound like much, but the good news is that we can bring that 12 percent under our control. It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness.

Empirical evidence that faith, family and friendships increase happiness and meaning are hardly shocking…Work, though seems less intuitive…Work can bring happiness by marrying our passions to our skills, empowering us to create value in our lives and in the lives of others.  Franklin D. Roosevelt had it right: “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”  In other words, the secret to happiness through work is earned success. This is not conjecture; it is driven by the data. Americans who feel they are successful at work are twice as likely to say they are very happy overall as people who don’t feel that way….You can measure your earned success in any currency you choose. You can count it in dollars, sure – or in kids taught to read, habitats protects or souls saved.”

Read full article in NY Times: Arthur C. Brooks, A Formula For Happiness

See video: The Secret to Happiness: A Few Simple Rules


Image Credit

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