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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Historian's view of how to be happy in today's world, 29 May 2007
Why are are we so preoccupied with living longer, yet aren't happy in old age? Now that we have abundance, e.g., food, why are we worried this will kill us, instead of (as historically) its scarcity? How has, e.g., the USA doubled in wealth without an increase in happiness?

Having a historical perspective helps you see the happiness value of today's world. This author thinks outside conventions (in a secular way) about the way we live. For example, separate ideas evolve and then later collide: a society can complain of an overweight epidemic and come up with escalators and Stairmasters.

This book is not specially written for the legions of depressed and how to "snap out of it"; rather, it is for us who have the preconditions for happiness, to help us interpret things sensibly and not worry about things that don't matter. People agree money won't buy happiness, but at the same time we run around exchanging our time for it. Are we all idiots?

God is not mentioned as a way to be happy. Faith does not appeal to the author's sense of truth. Rather, a sense of awe or wonder can be inspired by art, love and nature. Scientific understanding can merely allow a poetic feeling to develop; it is not directly the source of happiness: one can like renaissance art but not envy them their toilet paper. Religion can add unhappiness, guilt, pain, etc., but it is wrong to see all of its activities in this light.

The book gives lots of advice contra conventional wisdom on how to be happy, and this includes death. If you can see the world from a distant time-perspective you might find you are OK with not being here for ever, and can interpret things that you thought affected your happiness differently. The book is generally a pleasure to read, and it will help to make you happy.
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