Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World

The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World
© 2009 Howard Cutler, Tenzin Gyatso
368 pages



Perhaps over a year ago I stumbled upon the predecessor to this work, The Art of Happiness. The Art of Happiness, produced by psychiatrist Howard Cutler’s many interviews with Tenzin Gyatso, better known as the Dalai Lama,  took a philosophical approach to happiness that I enjoyed immensely. I looked forward to reading this similarly titled work ,which is the third in a series of Art of Happiness books that Cutler intends to write.

Art of Happiness focused on individuals and interpersonal relationships as they relate to happiness, but In a Troubled World takes a larger view, examining society as a whole and tackling some of the problems that arise from living in nation-states. The first few chapters examine the role of the individual within groups, stressing the need for balance between the poles of individualism and collectivism while addressing prejudice. The second part of the book addresses violence and fear, while the third sings the praises of hope, resilience, compassion, and empathy.

Although Gyatso is best known as the Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Budhhism, and has authored dozens of books relating to that subject, Buddhism is largely absent from this book. He refers to his own practices from time to time, but like Art of Happiness this is a book intended for a larger general audience and both Gyatso and Cutler root their discussions in naturalistic psychology.

I found much to appreciate in this book, although it didn’t impact me in the way of The Art of Happiness. Then, I was just starting to think of happiness in philosophical terms,  and found it useful. This work only affirmed what I already believe, and indeed take for granted operating from my own humanist values.

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