Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pascal's thoughts about inactivity

Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest, withoutpassions, without business, without diversion, without effort. Then he feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, his weakness,his emptiness. 

(Pascal, The Pensees, 1660/1950, p. 57).              

David Brent on the Meaning of Life

I never thought I would quote David Brent approvingly on these pages, but here goes.

A philosopher once wrote you need three things to have a good life. One, a meaningful relationship, two, a decent job of work, and three, to make a difference. And it was always that third one that stressed me, to make a difference. And I realize that I do. Every day, we all do. It's how we interact, with our fellow man."

Not sure who the philosopher was, but Freud is attributed as saying  that mental health means the ability "to love and to work"  

(from The UK version of The Office starring Ricky Gervais)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

David Hume on how to stop overthinking

Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours' amusement, I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther.

From David Hume's Treatise on Human Nature

Saturday, September 07, 2013

William Glasser's key question

'What are you going to do about your life, beginning today?' "

Glasser was the creator of Reality Therapy -he died aged 88 in Sept 2013

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Zig Ziglar on the importance of goals

 People don't tend to wander around and then suddenly find themselves at the top of Mount Everest.  Zig Ziglar (motivational speaker)

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Psychologist David Lykken on how we can change our happiness level

 If we let our personal genetic steersman have his way, we shall tend to follow a course laid down for us in our DNA. But if much of what is inherited consists of behaviour tendencies that can be resisted, modified and shaped, there is a real possibility for intervention, for countermanding the genetic steersman.

Particularly interesting as Lykken (and Tellegen) are often quoted as saying
 "trying to be happier [may be] as futile as trying to be taller"

(Lykken D, Tellegen A. Happiness is a stochastic phenomenon. Psychological Science. 1996;7:186–189.)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Robert Louis Stevenson oh happiness

 "There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world." — Robert Louis Stevenson

Huxley's Brave New World and Happiness: the controller versus the savage

."Isn't there something in living dangerously?"

"There's a great deal in it," the Controller replied. "Men and women must have their adrenals stimulated from time to time."

"What?" questioned the Savage, uncomprehending.

"It's one of the conditions of perfect health. That's why we've made the V.P.S. treatments compulsory."


"Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It's the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconveniences."

"But I like the inconveniences."

"We don't," said the Controller. "We prefer to do things comfortably."

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."

"In fact," said Mustapha Mond, "you're claiming the right to be unhappy."

"All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."

"Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind." There was a long silence.

"I claim them all," said the Savage at last.

Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. "You're welcome," he said. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pascal on the need for engagement

Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest, without
passions, without business, without diversion, without effort. Then he
feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, his weakness,
his emptiness. 
(Pascal, The Pensees, 1660/1950, p. 57).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sam Harris on Free Will

Free will is an illusion ... Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they  are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.... (p. 5)

We are free to interpret and reinterpret the meanings of our lives ... [but this is not free will]. (p, 40)

Speaking from personal experience, I think that losing the sense of free will has only improved my ethics -by increasing my feelings of compassion and forgiveness, and diminishing my sense of entitlement to the fruits of my own good luck. (p.45)

Losing a belief in free will has not made me fatalistic- in fact, it has increased my feelings of freedom. My hopes, fears and neuroses seem less personal and indelible. There is no telling how much I might change in the future... A creative change of inputs to the system - learning new skills, forming new relationships, adopting new habits of attention- may radically transform one's life.

Monday, April 08, 2013

On the importance of mindfulness of thoughts (attributed to Aristotle)

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” 
This is attributed to  AristotleMetaphysics  ihn many places on the internet.
However, I have scoured the Metaphysics and  cannot find it! 
I like the quote anyway, but perhaps we need in the internet age to also add
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to read a quotation on the internet without accepting it as authoritative unless we have checked the original source". Not quite as pithy!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Horseman Harvey Smith after training the Grand National Winner on what will kill you

"I was chatting to another trainer the other day and his father always said there's two chairs that will kill you - the electric chair and the armchair."

Friday, April 05, 2013

Roger Ebert on the Meaning of Life

I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do.
Roger Ebert, film critic born 18 June 1942; died 4 April 2013

See  for  article Go gentle into that good night By Roger Ebert on May 2, 2009

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Ghandi on Mindfulness

Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny." 
Mahatma Ghandi