Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Pursuit of Happiness

In The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering the Disciplines of the Good Life, J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler say that all of us seek happiness. The problem is an erroneous definition of happiness. The contemporary definition - "a sense of pleasurable satisfaction" - is quite different from the classic definition.

They say that America (and most of Western culture) is awash in the epidemic of the "empty self." They quote Philip Cushman as saying, "The empty self is filled up with consumer goods, calories, experiences, politicians, romantic partners, and empathetic therapists...[the empty self] experiences a significant of community, tradition, and shared meaning,...a lack of personal conviction and worth, and it embodies the absences as a chronic, undifferentiated emotional hunger." The "empty self" is totally committed to that sense of pleasurable satisfaction.

"The empty self," say Moreland and Issler, "has a set of values, motives, and habits of thought, feeling, that make progress in maturity in the way of Christ extremely difficult." They then give four traits that tend to undermine spiritual growth and maturity.

1. The empty self is inordinately individualistic.

"A healthy form of individualism is a good thing. But the empty self that populates American culture is a self-contained individual who defines his own life goals, values, and interests as though he were a human atom, isolated from others with little need or responsibility to live for the concerns of his broader community" (p. 19).

To be continued. So far, this book is excellent!


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