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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 January 2016
It’s easy to forget you’re basically a smart ape with certain biological urges and needs. This book reminded me and provided a great sense of perspective on happiness, which is many things to many people, at many points in time. This is resolutely not a self-help book. It has however reminded me of the sources of my personal happiness. It’s a quick read and it entertained me through a long damp January evening. I will re-read this book in a few years, when I’ve forgotten I’m a smart ape again.
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on 27 October 2009
I have read a number of books on happiness -- Bertrand Russell's and one of the Dalai Lama's among them -- and have learned a great deal from them. Uniquely, as well as providing interesting thoughts and ideas, Desmond Morris's book actually made me FEEL happier and more optimistic for the future too -- both for me personally and for humanity. I looked for a way to send him a thank-you email but have given up for now. ** Dr. Morris, I think you are unlikely to read this, but if by some chance you do, I would like to thank you for a wonderful book.** To go back to sharing my thoughts with potential readers, the author is clearly a man who has actually experienced a huge amount of happiness in his life (whatever else besides) and really KNOWS what he is talking about. This in addition to having a theoretical perspective based in a Darwinian evolutionary view of man that correctly emphasizes the body, food, sex and love. I don't think you have to agree with Darwin or be a materialist to enjoy the book and have its hope for the future and practical ideas improve your state of mind. The spiritual question can remain open, or you can be spiritual as well as Darwinian. I think what contributed so much to me feeling my happiness level genuinely raised by reading this book (admittedly this happens to be a good time in my life too, so the background is right), is the author's life-loving attitude, wide sympathies, wide perspective on the sources of happiness (he writes movingly on the value of intellectual board games and other "pointless" activities), deep humanity, and genuine concern to help others become happier. It is also significant that he does not at all ignore the sources of deep unhappiness in many people's lives (e.g. mindless work, lack of scope to live in a fulfilling way, and over-large societies that cause us to emphasize competition over cooperation -- while accepting that competition is natural and can be good too), explains the tragedy of this, and shows how this came about and why it is not how things should be or have to be in the future -- if only we collectively can do the right things with the resources we now have. It is a short book, not the best for learning about Darwinian theory or the history of humanity. Certainly there were details I could question. And the one reservation I have is about the author's generally positive view of prostitution as a source of sensual happiness. No doubt, e.g., van Gogh's life would have been sadder without this possibility, but we need to remember that for many women who become prostitutes (if, perhaps, not all) it is a really bad option coming out of a miserable background. And often not even a choice. The book is about enhancing life and happiness and seeing the way forward for oneself and our societies, which also gives a framework for the direction we need to go in and what needs to be done, if not the details of how to do it.
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on 25 June 2005
Don't get me wrong, but this is a solid good book, well worth 4 stars had it not being so short. There are a few interesting section in this book, but these are either already done in other books, or a just trivial general fact. So, only 3 stars.
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on 27 September 2009
Desmond Morris doesn't tell us how to be happy, not even that we should be happy. He simply gives his explanation of what happiness is. If we understand it, we can decide if we want it and can try for ourselves the different ways to achieve it.
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on 14 January 2012
As I am in what you can call a pursuit of happiness I was interested to see what others think of it so picked up this book.

Obviously happiness means different things to different people, so I was not surprised to find out how we are different with the author on a view what happiness is and how to achieve it.

He puts it this way: "... happiness is the sensation we experience when life suddenly gets better. At this very moment when something wonderful happens to us there is a surge of emotion, a sensation of intense pleasure []. This is the moment when we are truly happy."

The author then goes on to describe the types of events that can cause happiness (winning a competition, having a sensual experience and so on).

I suppose that this is the traditional Western view on happiness and author did a great job putting it in a book.

The only issue I have with it (I hope I am as anybody else entitled to have my view on happiness!) is based on this, happiness is a rare and fleecing moment, caused by some external factors.

When I thought the same, I was running to catch these moments, and in those very rare cases I thought I got them, they were spoilt by a fear (or knowledge) that they will not last forever and will be gone sooner or later. As author quotes "life is prolonged misery interrupted by brief moments of happiness". But is it really happiness if it only lasts a moment, and then gone in a blink of an eye?

Then I learned about the other side of happiness.

It is not something that you can gain (and can lose) but something you always had. Every moment can be a happy moment. Every mundane job can be an act of happiness. When I realized this (not conceptually, but very deeply inside), I felt such a wave of happiness that was unlike anything I experienced before. And it is still there, when I have a moment to look inside and reflect on it. No matter what happens, if it rains or snows or my football team loses (again), I now know I can be happy. And you know what - I am.

I hope a day will come and I will be looking into the eyes of other people and see sparkles of happiness inside them, I will see gentle smiles and I will smile back and will feel happy, for no reason at all.

May all beings be happy.
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on 13 July 2015
An interesting read. Written from a kind of aethistic perspective I would say. Mr Morris is an expert in human behaviour. His books are always very interesting and this is no exception. Can be read in a week. I would buy again.
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on 30 January 2010
This is not a 'fix yourself handbook' (thank God) but it is a wonderfully descriptive outline of how our needs, as human apes, are fulfilled in modern society. It is covered in biological, anthropological, emotional and social terms. I love this book and want to give it to lots of friends as presents - though it is not inspirational or uplifiting it deals superbly with our humanity, and just what that means.

I wasn't looking for inspiration, but I am at a change-point in my life, a sort of, let's see what is possible moment. So understanding how I work as a human is helping me get clear about my own happiness. Knowing what makes me happy is a real gift right now and I suspect it may be for others too.

The format is small and compact, a real pocket size, so very portable. Deserves to be read in short pieces.

Warning: if you deny evolution and are offended by those who question the existence of God, don't buy it, you'll only get all hot and bothered.
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on 3 May 2012
The subject of this book is the science of happiness, and in particular the genetics (genetic theory) as to why we should feel happy about the things that add some joy to our lives. In terms of genetics, we possess today characteristics that in the past resulted in greater reproductive success for our species:

"The fear programme [feeling fear, an inborn quality, which we evolved as hunter gatherers] is designed to get us away from things that are likely to harm us. If we had to make an analogous claim about the purpose of the happiness system [feeling happy, another evolved inborn quality], we would be most likely to say that it is there to keep us moving towards things that are likely to be good for us in some appropriate biological sense--mating, good food, pleasant environment--and away from things that are bad for us." (Quoting from Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile by Daniel Nettle.)

The Western paradigm being in a large part scientific in approach, I think then reasons (to put this in no more than a sentence) that our role in the overall scheme of things is essentially no more than a long and enjoyable life, the purpose of our psychobiological capacities being to add to the joy in our lives.

Morris also includes a 'Classification of Happiness'.
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on 28 December 2015
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on 25 September 2014
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