The Illusion of Happiness

David Brook’s column appeared on April Fool’s day (2010) which is a perfect metaphor for life in P-B. Only a fool would continue to repeat behaviors that are unsustainable or self-destructive but nevertheless that is what humanity persists in doing. The subject of his op-ed piece was happiness. On the positive side it seems that some people are beginning to question the advisability of relying on the false self survival strategy to deliver happiness.

There is a rash of compelling books—including The Hidden Wealth of Nations by David Halpern and The Politics of Happiness by Derek Bok—that argue that public institutions should pay attention to well-being and not just material growth, narrowly conceived. Beginning with a hypothetical choice Brooks ponders which would bring Sandra Bullock greater happiness, if she were forced to make a choice, her recent Oscar or her adulterous husband. The he goes on to make a convincing case that a good relationship delivers more happiness than professional achievements. We hear no more about the poor Oscar winner and her obviously less than ideal marriage as Brooks keeps his eye on the central question.

…worldly success has shallow roots while interpersonal bonds permeate through and through. Trust is a key ingredient in the recipe for happiness between and among individuals. Levels of social trust vary enormously, but countries with high social trust have happier people, better health, more efficient government, more economic growth and less fear of crime (regardless of whether actual crime rates are increasing or decreasing). The overall impression from this research is that economic and professional success exists on the surface of life, and that they emerge out of interpersonal relationships, which are much deeper and more important.

It is the second conclusion that relates more directly to the unsustainable behaviors found in P-B. …most of us pay attention to the wrong things [security, sensation and power].  Most people vastly overestimate the extent to which more money would improve our lives. Brooks concludes that our governments are focusing on the wrong problems and creating policies that offer solutions to problems that matter least to people. Governments keep instituting policies they think will produce prosperity, only to get sacked, time and time again, from their spiritual blind side.

We can conclude by pointing out that as long as we think human unhappiness is a “standard of living problem” or a “spiritual problem” we will continue to get “blind-sided.” Nor will finding our “soul-mate” relieve our existential suffering. The only profound solution to living a life of continuous reaction is to make our life a continuous meditation using the Point of Power Practice that will deliver us into the experience of life as a “response.” We can find authentic and continuous happiness by changing our story from one that has us chasing the mirages of security, sensation and power to the context of Simple Reality which will activate our natural state of happiness.


References and notes are available for this essay.
For a much more in-depth discussion on Simple Reality, read
Simple Reality: The Key to Serenity and Survival, by Roy Charles Henry, published in 2011.



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