Monday, 17 December 2012

Heroes and Happiness

So the past few weeks have been filled with university work, and the past few months have been filled with moving to university and settling in and such, thus explaining my lack of activity. Anyhow, in order to relieve some of the exam stress (not there I was afflicted by it overly, but it is always nice to relax), I ordered and rewatched the first two seasons of Heroes. I do not know how many of you remember this show, but, in short, it was fantastic. It took the concept of super powered human beings and worked such an intricate plotline into it that really made it something special.

Anyhow, the central thrust of this entry pertains to a conversation which happens towards the end of the first series, between Nathan Petrelli, the politician, and Linderman, who is essentially an exceptionally rich mobster. During the conversation, Linderman asks Nathan whether he wants a life of “meaning” or of “happiness”. Naturally, Nathan expresses his desire to have both, to which Linderman responds with:

"It can't be done. Two very different paths. I mean, to be truly happy a man must live absolutely in the present, and with no thought of what's gone before, and no thought of what lies ahead. But a life of meaning, a man is condemned to wallow in the past, and obsess about the future."

I can remember the first time I heard this quotation, I found it exceptionally interesting, but eventually I forgot about it. When I rewatched the series, it did not take me long to notice the underlying links this philosophical approach to happiness has with some of the principles of Buddhism. Linderman’s message is essentially Buddhist in nature. According to Buddhist principles, happiness arises from practicing mindfulness. What is mindfulness? It is the practice of living your life completely in the moment, accepting the past and the future as being beyond your control, which I personally think is a true enough sentiment. True happiness comes from simply living your life in a state of semi-ignorant bliss, simply releasing desires and worries and allowing your mind to entirely encompass the present, rather than allowing your thoughts to stray over what happened and what might do in the future.

Personally, I can see how this leads to happiness, for if one regards only the present, there is simply less to be concerned with, and it is far easier to focus your mind and simply live in a state of peace. However, I do not think that a life of meaning is in any way dependant on obsessing over the past or the future. Certainly, to live with purpose, one would need to consider the past and the future, but I think that it is very easy for a person to live with purpose whilst also living primarily in the present.

Consider the past and the future, but remember to keep them in perspective, remember that the past and the future are both beyond your immediate control, but do not forget that you can still affect your future by how you act in the present. That is how to living a meaningful, happy life.

I might have some more entries over Christmas, but if I do not, Merry Christmas to any who read this.

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