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The time to be HAPPY is NOW
March 27, 2014 4:31 PM   Subscribe

"How can I be happy?" Narrated by Stephen Fry

There are no simple recipes for living that are applicable to all people. We have different tastes and preferences, different priorities and goals. One person might like drawing, walking in the woods, and caring for their grandchildren. Another may like cooking, watching soap operas, savoring a favorite wine or a new food. We may find meaning through our family, our career, making a commitment to an artistic project or a political reform. In simple pleasures, such as gardening, in hobbies, or in a thousand other ways, giving reign to our creativity or our curiosity, our intellectual capacities or our emotional life: the time to be happy is now. And the way to find meaning in life is to get on and live it - as fully and as well as we can.
posted by jammy (46 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Stephen is a gift.
posted by Freedomboy at 4:47 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


All very interesting, but it would have been nice if he had addressed the question. Or if the talk had not been mis-titled. Or even if he had attempted to show how meaning is connected to happiness. I worked on something earlier today that I think had meaning, but I can't say that it made me particularly happy. Fry does have a soothing voice, though.
posted by Longtime Listener at 4:49 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


Requisite City Slickers scene post here.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:55 PM on March 27


All very interesting, but it would have been nice if he had addressed the question.

He certainly addressed the question. Or do you mean, it would be nice if he had answered it? That would be a rather lofty expectation.

I think meaning is certainly connected to happiness, as well. I think Fry's implying that different things can serve as positive meaning-making activities for different people, and that these are probably necessary but perhaps not sufficient conditions for happiness.
posted by clockzero at 4:59 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


So, to summarize: Different people find meaning in different things, now go be happy. It's great if you already know what will make you happy. Then go do that thing. But someone who already knows that answer isn't likely to be asking the title question.
posted by Longtime Listener at 5:12 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


I generally love all things Stephen Fry, but I'm sort of baffled by this. It seems like some kind of concise primer on understanding human beings, written as a sort of open letter to the Borg.

Actually I would love a series of these from the perspective of different sci fi alien races. Or maybe different earth life forms.
posted by Sara C. at 5:35 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


It's a video about humanism, so obviously it's a response to the religious advice to find happiness in God and his plan. Which, believe it or not, huge swaths of the human population believe in and find solace in every day.
posted by deathpanels at 5:39 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


I used to adore all things Fry but as I get older his erudition and his wisdom are striking me as increasingly shallow, obvious and non-insightful things delivered in a way that seems non-obvious and insightful.
posted by StephenF at 5:41 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


His ability to declaratively state the obvious is almost Cosby-esque.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:47 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Now I want an audiobook of Alain de Botton narrated by Stephen Fry...
posted by viggorlijah at 5:47 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Happiness is only possible in hindsight.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:48 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


If you watch it (and I love the animation) by the end you just see all our capabilities and connections spread out across the page and its really lovely and inspiring. The point is not to go and find a "thing" and do it and be happy. It's that we should be happy just because we're full of the potential for amazing things - you should be happy just to be a human cause human beings are awesome in and of themselves.
posted by billiebee at 5:50 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Happiness is only possible in hindsight.

I can say with certainty that this is incorrect.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:17 PM on March 27 [7 favorites]


you should be happy just to be a human cause human beings are awesome in and of themselves

Here is that same thought translated into American.
posted by flabdablet at 6:20 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Ha! And of course this.
posted by billiebee at 6:31 PM on March 27


I wonder where I can go find a Little Book of Calm and swallow it. That appears to be the way to be happy.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:38 PM on March 27 [12 favorites]


Happiness is delusion. It's quite conceivable and a lot more attainable to embrace sadness and despair as a necessary part of being fully human and become much more content than any so-called "happy" person. Don't let cowards like Fry bully you into feeling less-than human because you can't achieve happiness. You'll be more fulfilled seeking truth.
posted by any major dude at 6:38 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Didn't he try to commit suicide recently?
posted by reiichiroh at 6:41 PM on March 27


Happiness is delusion.

Is the red pill really that great?
posted by maxwelton at 6:56 PM on March 27


It's quite conceivable and a lot more attainable to embrace sadness and despair as a necessary part of being fully human and become much more content than any so-called "happy" person.

It depends what you define as "happy". If I were to define it as being content in each moment to just let it be, then of course joy and despair are both equally valid aspects of human existence. But how amazing it is to feel joy and how physical the despair can be sometimes and in both cases we are experiencing as humans and being aware of that and having the language to express it; we can turn both into art and make meaning from it and help others find meaning in their experiences. That is what the video is saying - (I haven't checked if Fry wrote it or just narrated it) - that humans find meaning in lots of different ways, and be happy we have the capability to do so. He is not saying: you must be laughing every minute of the day.
posted by billiebee at 7:13 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


"Life is a business that cannot cover the costs" - Schopenhauer

Raymond Smullyan talks somewhere about wondering why reading pessimistic philosophers cheers him up.
posted by thelonius at 7:15 PM on March 27


Ah, it is in 5000 B.C.
posted by thelonius at 7:18 PM on March 27


I'm gonna be that guy... but some of the art may be plagiarized. The praying woman in particular I've seen before in clip-art, and, indeed, an image search of "clip art prayer woman" turned up something really, really close right on the first page of results.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:26 PM on March 27


This just reminded me of things that make me happy, and so shortly I am off to see LE WEEK-END, which may or may not be a fine film.

My close friend Richard, who died of cancer on March 1st, can't see it with me. Neither can my friend Michael, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack in December, nor can my friend Steve, who rather surprisingly elected to put a bullet in his brain on October 26th. Nor can my friend Marjorie, who had a fatal brain tumour take her down 6 years ago, nor Leslie who died in an auto accident.

Before he died, Richard told me to not waste my time. To do things I enjoyed. Obvious advice, right? But how many of us remember to follow good, if obvious, advice? Not me.

Still, I am trying to remember. I have fired a pain in the ass client. Now I am going to a movie. Both activities have meaning to me.

Will I be happy at the movie theatre? You bet I will. I love movies and I love watching them on actual big screens. Alone or with friends, movie-going is grand either way. YMMV.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:38 PM on March 27 [15 favorites]


He's been diagnosed bipolar, no? Suicidal impulses are a symptom of mental illness, not evidence of a lack of having a good and satisfying life. Honestly, one of the scariest things to deal with is depression that arrives just when there isn't actually anything wrong. This is, at any rate, I agree, specifically in response to the very pervasive belief among conservative Christians that you cannot be properly happy or have a properly decent life without God, not as a general platitude or self-help kind of thing. You might not have found your happy place yet, but it's totally possible and quite possibly easier to find it without the threat of eternal damnation being involved.
posted by Sequence at 8:16 PM on March 27 [8 favorites]


This posits that knowing the meaning or purpose of one's life and manifesting that = happiness. Are we sure about that?
posted by bartleby at 8:22 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


But the answer to everything was right there at the beginning of the video -- 42!

Now we just need to figure out the question. I'm starting with "how many chocolate chip cookies can I eat in one go?"
posted by jb at 8:25 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Happiness is only possible in hindsight.

One swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book I, 1098.a18
posted by bukvich at 9:07 PM on March 27


Generalizations are never correct.
posted by belarius at 9:34 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


I don't think about the subject of happiness all that often, and I've been fortunate in that I've always been able to find pleasure and meaning in just about every aspect of my life so far. That being said, I have noticed that my "happiness" (i.e. feelings of well-being) really is quite dependent on a number biochemical factors. Hunger, fatigue, a pinched nerve, a toothache: if one of these things is happening I can guarantee that my happiness is nowhere to be found.

This seems really obvious and unworthy of mention but I continue to be shocked by how swiftly I can go from feeling pretty great to UGH THE WORLD IS SHIT just because I, like, skipped breakfast or didn't go to bed at a decent hour.

...

[Ya'll watched the video to the end and saw the credits, right? It was narrated by Mr. Fry, but not actually written by him. I mean, he's a professional voice actor...plying his trade on a commercial for secular humanism I mean NO SHIT it's not that deep or insightful.

Somehow I doubt that Stephen Fry's personal views on happiness and meaning are really this simple or facile. "Oh but no no no, his time in the sun has passed and now we must declare him blasé and irrelevant like that dumb old poser Crosby amirite"

Come on. This is one of the most inconsequential things you will encounter today, I'll wager.]

posted by Doleful Creature at 10:58 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure I understand the Fry backlash.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:02 PM on March 27 [12 favorites]


I never got this idea that "meaning" on its own is desirable. A human slave's life had a meaning - making his owner wealthier. We could be raised as a galactic food crop for the Other Ones, who are returning soon, and, hey, all of humanity has a meaning.

This does not seem to be what people have in mind. Often what they seem to mean is that things be satisfying, and that they produce, well, happiness (not pleasure, which is different).
posted by thelonius at 11:53 PM on March 27


Perhaps what many have in mind is simply a connection to others, or to a community. That's more or less what it is to me, I think. Still, my first reaction, when someone complains of things being meaningless, is that they are probably depressed, not that they have something to tell me about how things really are.
posted by thelonius at 1:05 AM on March 28


Generalizations are never correct.

On the whole, of course.
posted by petebest at 4:41 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


The answer to the question was there, but apparently many people failed to grasp it: Happiness is a choice.

But, sure, if you want to be angry at Mr. Fry for making you think he was going to magically turn your life around in a four minute video, knock yourself out.
posted by dry white toast at 5:51 AM on March 28 [8 favorites]


Be happy you get to ponder the possibility of being happy. And be happy that Stephen Fry is awesome and flawed and sometimes unhappy but is still here trying to be happy and would like for you to be happy.
posted by h00py at 8:30 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


'Happy' is a very silly word and saying it a lot makes me happy in a kind of pissy way.
posted by h00py at 8:31 AM on March 28


I never got this idea that "meaning" on its own is desirable. A human slave's life had a meaning - making his owner wealthier.

That's a purpose, and an instrumental one. I think meaning, here, refers to how someone's acts acquire significance to them; like how one can enjoy gardening because it entails nurturing living things, and nurturing can feel good in a way that transcends the specifics of the act.
posted by clockzero at 8:41 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Happiness is only possible in hindsight.
You're doing it wrong.
posted by MtDewd at 8:57 AM on March 28


I'm not sure I understand the Fry backlash.

I'm sure I don't like it, not one bit. Really, energy spent tearing down Stephen Fry could be put to better use, oh, ANYWHERE else. It's a weird fight to pick.
posted by gohabsgo at 9:00 AM on March 28 [4 favorites]


Backlashes make some people happy. On occasion I'm one of them. But not this time. I, too, am a Fry fan. If you have seen the statistics, the surprise would be if he had not attempted suicide. Bipolar disorder is one of those, er, suicide-friendly disorders. Insert wry/resigned expression here. My daughter has it. At the moment, she is still breathing. Just another reason to be happy.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:02 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Backlashes make some people happy.

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Ohh... you said lashes. Sorry.
posted by flabdablet at 11:13 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


I think MeFi woke up on the wrong side of the bed. The criticism here isn’t making me question the linked material, it makes me question MeFi.
posted by scamper at 11:37 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Happiness is overrated. The nature of life is suffering. Once you realize what this means, you can practice real compassion, which is more meaningful than fleeting moments of personal joy.

There's nothing wrong with happiness, but it's not very meaningful as a spiritual goal and looks inward for answers. Acceptance of suffering of all beings allows much more fulfillment and empathy, as opposed to constantly trying to run from it.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:43 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


BTW, I love Fry and have also suffered from depression and other mental health issues. Realizing you have a choice to be happy is profound if it's something you didn't truly understand before, and it's a journey I've been through. But I think claiming ownership of the choice to be sad or happy is a step on the real path, which becomes less about the self and a person's internal emotional states.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:51 PM on March 31


Realizing you have a choice to be happy is profound if it's something you didn't truly understand before

Deciding that it's perfectly acceptable to feel whatever you happen to be feeling at any given moment, and adopting a policy of working out what if anything needs to be done in response to that feeling rather than wasting endless time on attempts to deny or alter or "fix" or even hang onto the feeling itself, is pretty huge as well.

Unrelenting happiness is actually fairly limiting. I'm quite glad it's not something I personally suffer from.
posted by flabdablet at 1:15 AM on April 1


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