“The unexamined life is not a life worth living for a human being.”
~ Socrates, in Plato’s Apology
I believe we are pattern-seeking creatures (we see patterns even when they don’t exist) and from these patterns we construct meaning because we are driven to make sense of the world and our place in it. But what if life exists outside of our patterns, outside of meaning. Inspired by learning more about Dr. George Vaillant’s adaptations I created my own personal “religion” which is a blend of humor, altruism, Buddhism, intelligence, and trust (haBit).
There is a difference between joy and happiness. I believe that having the capacity to experience joy becomes a valuable talent particularly in old age. When you are dying and racked with pain, it is hard to be happy all the time, but joy, wonder, curiosity, and humor remain. Old age can become a creative, joyful way to play when you learn not to take everything so seriously. Rather than strive for continual happiness, I think we should learn to appreciate and savor fleeting, serendipitous moments of joy.
The steadfast belief that my life has meaning and purpose staves off depression. Of course, the black dog of despair howls outside my window occasionally, but like happiness, I realize that unexpected setbacks are only temporary. Through the unconscious and conscious workings of my flexible mind I can frame everything that happens to me within a lesson that is rich in meaning. Learning brings me joy even when the lesson is painful. I realize there is another way of looking at things. I have a brilliant friend named George, who is a renowned biophysicist at the University of California in Berkeley. Meeting George for dinner is always a treat because he is such a delightful and intellectually stimulating companion. His world view is shaped by the skillful interweaving of his wise humor and vast intellect. That is why humor and intelligence are part of my new “religion.”
I feel the happiest when I am with people who know how to make me laugh. During the first half of my life, my seriousness bordered on moroseness, but as I’ve gotten older, I have learned how to lighten up and not take life so seriously. Yes, the world needs to be saved and that is why altruism and Buddhism will always play an important role in my life, but there are also other important facets of life I wish to explore such as passion, romance and love.
I believe the intellect must be actively engaged in the quest for knowledge. I tend to downplay the value of faith because what we accept as the truth must be objective and evidence-based. Even though I am not a scientist, I admire the scientific approach to life. By performing scientifically valid experiments on individuals (human and non-human agents) as well as natural phenomena, scientists can construct knowledge to formulate an objective view of the truth.
Trust is as important as the truth. People who trust life tend to be happier (having trust that in the end everything will work out for the best). I hope my new haBit will bring more joy into my life!