A non-interactive version of McKinney’s “Happiness”. Practical psychology that’s coincidentally Buddhist. 368 pages, ★★★★
The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World tells us why we should be happy. It does so in fluent prose, a substantial proportion of which is paraphrased from dialogues between the author and the Dalai Lama (hence the Dalai Lama’s name and giant picture on the front cover). It teaches us that we should all be happy, that happiness is contagious, and that happiness is always the antidote to suffering. Very Buddhist.
The author raises many points that would make interesting conversation topics. He argues that hit TV show “Survivor” is the epitome of American individualism and greed: when a dozen strangers are left stranded on an island, they are rewarded for infighting (not co-operating) and all strive to be the last one standing—alone, atop a huge pile of cash. “How unhappy the winners must be!”, the author writes.
He also argues that racism is rooted in a human evolutionary preference for remembering negative news over positive news. Positive news can make you happy (e.g. “we have a bumper harvest this year”) but negative news can save your life (e.g. “a hurricane is coming”). He says this is why one group will more easily remember negative information about another group, unless they are well-acquainted. He thus infers that racism can be eliminated by cultural understanding. I like that.
The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World more closely resembles a psychology book than a Buddhist book. He talks about the roots of fear, and recovery from trauma with the soothing tone of a psychologist. Like McKinney’s book, The Power of Happiness (see review here), The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World is Buddhist by coincidence.
This book concludes with a dramatic change in tone. First, it resembles Thomas Freedman’s The World Is Flat. Not only are we are all equal human beings on a level playing field, who achieve great things when we work together, but we are also much more interconnected than we realise. (The latter example is illustrated by the famous Milton Friedman question, “how many people does it take to make a pencil?”). Answer: probably billions, both past and present. The effect here is to remind us that happiness is not only necessary and possible, but also contagious in the modern world. Happy people make people happy. 🙂
I’m glad I’ve read this book, even though it’s not the best in its genre. (Those, I gave five stars: see Tiny Buddha, Happiness and The Power of Happiness for better-written, 5-star examples.) I gave this book four stars because I’m such a fan of the genre. Most other reviewers would give it just three. ★★★★