Daniel Gilbert attempts to address the issues surrounding human happiness. Robert Thurman outlines the correlation between religion, self, knowledge, and the universe, the ultimate means of gaining wisdom. There are significant correlations between the two in regards to the ability to control the human mind. An individual can control their mind, whether that means through reality or “cook facts”. The mindset may be focused on happiness or wisdom, but it is essentially a means for controlling the way a person thinks. “Wisdom and compassion are ultimately inseparable, wisdom being the complete knowledge of ultimate selflessness and compassion being the selfless commitment to the happiness of others.” (Thurman, 2004) Because the main factors outlined by Thurman, compassion and wisdom must coincide. Without one, the other would cease to exist. On the other side of the equation, compassion breeds off of the happiness of others therefore being a direct connection between both Gilbert and Thurman’s theories.
There are so many factors that individuals attribute their happiness to. Some of these factors are important like family structure, health, and superficial factors like money and popularity. Part of an individual’s quest is self dictation of what they believe their own obstacles are that are preventing personal happiness. Gilbert describes these as false beliefs that are super-replicating, maintained by humanity with a view to maintaining the status quo. Thurman too addresses this feeling of self evaluation. “I feel that it’s there when I don’t look for it, but as soon as I look for it with real effort, it instantly eludes discovery.” (Thurman, 2004) Searching for a greater meaning of life ultimately creates a greater purpose. Taking away the obstacles will allow individuals to find their quest, be that wisdom or happiness.
Is the Buddhist experience of nothingness a way of freeing people from the hot states in which we overestimate our own capacity to find satisfaction through changes in external conditions?
Free your mind free yourself is an ideal theory that is just not feasible for the majority of humanity. Buddhism teaches individuals about emptiness, voidness, and selflessness. Within such mentalities, an individual has the mean to become nothing, even if at some point they felt they were something. Humans have a materialistic, selfish desire. The more they have, the greater their happiness. This is evident at every age of life, children all the way to seniors. Again, referring back to Gilberts theories on happiness, materialism or money is a basis for personal satisfaction. This “happiness” will dissolve when the external conditions are no longer favorable. Basing personal wellbeing on having the coolest clothes, a new car, or a significant amount of money in the bank will be temporary. When this material product is all gone, the happiness that once coincided with it will leave too. This is not a representation of happiness. It is an external condition that will, inevitably change.
The Buddhist have the right idea to free yourself from finding satisfaction in external conditions and finding oneself in nothingness. “One of the most significant changes you will notice upon discovering you selflessness is that your sense of being separate from everyone else has now eroded. Your new awareness enables you to perceive others as equal to yourself, a part you, even. You can see yourself as they see you, and experience empathically how they perceive themselves as locked within themselves” (Thurman, 2004) The separation of self allows the individual to view themselves separate of other individual’s problems. The focus is on your own well being and others cannot pull you down to their level as well. This is another factor that aids in happiness, not carrying the burden of others as your own as well.
Is the notion of wisdom itself an example of the kind of unconscious fact cooking Gilbert describes, which generates happiness only if it feels “like a discovery and not like a snow job”?
Wisdom is based on discovery. The truth associated with such discovery cannot be comprised of false understandings or contents. This means that there has to be a certain amount of credibility and research done to take discovery as factual. There is no unconscious fact cooking, happiness is based on true understanding of the issues at hand. Believing a snow job again will allow only a temporary feeling of happiness that will inevitably end. Wisdom cannot be comprised of misconstrued facts that is a contradiction of what wisdom is essentially. Fact cooking as Gilbert describes it is things that are believed to be true however they are based on empty facts. It’s what the mind wants and is willing to believe. This characteristic evolves not only from what an individual can see, but what they learn along the way as well.
Happiness on the other hand can be altered by what is called a snow job. This is a belief that something is how it is whether that is true or not can generate temporary happiness. It is what one wants to believe for their own personal well-being. For example, a person who is trying to lose weight reads that if they drink a gallon of water at night they will lose several pounds overnight. That dieter, who is happy to find this easy solution to their problem, believes this to be factual. It is when this newly found “wisdom” is found to be fictitious that the individual loses their happiness and the knowledge they thought they had. It is often easier to believe a false truth than to face reality.
Is there a way to determine, finally, if another person is happy or wise?
Determining the difference between someone who is happy or wise is hard to do. However, according to Gilbert happiness does not need to be based on reality, which wisdom definitely is. “Upon my back, to defend my belly; upon my wit, to defend my wiles; upon my secrecy, to defend mine honesty; my mask, to defend my beauty.” (Gilbert, 2002) An individual’s mind will lie to itself as a defense mechanism to protect itself. The mind can play tricks on you to make one believe a lie to cover up an unfavorable truth. This is what he refers to as “cook facts”. What the mind chooses to believe ultimately affects the feelings. This is opposite of what wisdom is comprised upon.
Wisdom is not based on which mood would best suit ones individual desires. It is based on what is real, proven, and honest. It does not regard how the said factors will affect the individual; it just lays out the evidence and allows the individual to consume them. With wisdom comes happiness. But gaining wisdom is a process that cannot and will not happen overnight. Understanding the difference will aid in an individual being able to determine if a person is in fact happy or wise, or both.
Can one know oneself with certainty in either of these systems?
Both of these systems allows individuals to learn themselves in some manner. According to Thurman, his theories are based on knowledge and overall self control. “Knowing something is a way of controlling it, being able to put it in its proper place in relation to us so that we can use it effectively” (Thurman, 2004).
Gilbert’s theory of happiness is to essentially alter reality. This is not necessarily a bad thing, when reality is pulling an individual down changes are essential. Friends are a big factor that often need to be reevaluated because the reality is not what that specific individual really needs. “But siblings and presidents are ours, for better or for worse, and there’s not much we can do about it once they’ve been born or elected.” (Gilbert, 2002) This is when Gilbert’s theory loses some effectiveness. If a situation cannot be altered, one can lie to oneself as a self defense mechanism