The secret to happiness

I have a wedding coming up. I’m incredibly excited for it, to share my love for my fianceé as well as the people in the room. I’m also excited to hear what words of wisdom friends and family will impart during their toasts, in their cards and in the tell-a-story booth (phone booth that records stories!). I know what I would say if I was giving a toast to myself: I know the secret to happiness. Study more.

Knowledge, not ignorance, creates bliss

While it sounds like a plug for teachers and universities, it is a true foundation for feeling more happiness from your every day life. The over worn mantra is that ignorance is bliss. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you are ignorant about how things work, the history of a piece of art or the difficulty of an athletic maneuver are seen as one would look at an avocado for the first time. Wow, that’s interesting and strange. What’s in aisle two.

Knowledge on the other hand begets appreciation and happiness for witnessing the product of hours of training, years of technological development or centuries of artistic evolution. Learning the history of architecture and art nouveau makes a walk through Riga, Latvia a jaw-dropping experience while an ignorant visitor would point with mild interest at the faces on a wall. Learning the intricacies of the strategies of soccer and histories of rivalry makes watching a 90 minute soccer battle a thrilling test of wit and athleticism while a casual observer might only enjoy the goals.

There are many moments when everyone can recognize and appreciate beauty. A walk past the Statue of David will move the most ignorant hearts. However, the more we know about a topic, the more we can appreciate and feel true happiness from the opportunity to enjoy it.

As Paul Bloom notes in his Ted Radio talk, to enjoy more, learn more. If you want to enjoy expensive wine, you don’t chug more wine. You learn about wine. If you want to enjoy art more, take an art history class.

Education is the secret to happiness

Education is thus not merely a method to gain knowledge in order to do something (like get a job or build a spaceship) but also a means to uncover intrinsic value. The best part is, the more you study learning, the more you’ll also enjoy the process of knowledge gathering and happiness-building.

If you invite me to your wedding, I’m ready to share the secret to happiness, and together our band of explorers will help one another learn more and uncover happiness.

Photo: LinksmanJD, Mar.tin

Posted on May 21st, 2012 in Life