Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Summer Reading 1: Stumbling on Happiness...

While I have not been as consistent at posting this summer, I tried to be a bit more consistent in my reading. So over the next few days, I will give summaries, recommendations, and applications for some of the non-fiction books I read this summer.

How often do we find ourselves thinking, "If only X, then I would be happy"? (Where X equal some imagined future event.) How often when X becomes fulfilled do we enjoy the happiness that we imagined we would? These are the questions Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness seeks to consider and wrestle with.

In this humorous and well-paced read, Gilbert challenges the idea that we can imagine into the future and make accurate decisions about what will make us happy. He notes the shortcomings of imagination and perception, as well as our complicity in systems that perpetuate the idea of happiness, while never quite delivering.

Ultimately, he suggests that the most accurate way of predicting whether a future event will make us happy is to ask others who are currently going through the experience we are contemplating.

By no means can I do this interesting and humorous look at human perception of happiness justice in a brief blog post. So I recommend picking up this book for yourself and giving it a go. Take my word for it!

Based on Gilbert's premises, I now think about imagination and perception a little differently. I am more aware of their fallibility and why they are fallible. Although there is very little discussion of God in the book, this book is a great resource to use with sermon series on subjects like happiness and the human condition because of the questions it raises.

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