Wellbeing : Art of Living
Type “how to be happy” into Google™ and you get 276 million hits. That’s a lot of advice! But why does so much of it – work less, earn more, keep fit – sound so trite? If it were that easy, wouldn’t we all be happy by now? The reason is that a central and tricky question is being glossed over: just what is happiness?
In his absorbing new book, Mark Vernon explains that finding happiness is not as simple as having good friends or a full social life. For Vernon, writing as a religious agnostic, the crunch issue is our ability, or inability, to find within ourselves a sense of meaning or deeper purpose, something not found in everyday life. The search for transcendence, argues Vernon, is the greatest challenge of our day. The idea that we are part of “something bigger”, something unfamiliar and unknown, was, until modern times, a fundamental step in cultivating wellbeing. Whereas today happiness is all too often associated with pleasure, a concern with the bits and pieces that make up a good life rather than a love of the good itself and a search for the good in life. Unless our understanding of wellbeing is both more expansive and profound, Vernon argues, people will only be let down, and although many warm sounding words will be uttered, life will continue much as before.
Drawing on the thought of the ancient Greek philosophers, Wellbeing challenges us to think about our values and beliefs, to discover a sense of place in the universe, and to work out what we love and how to love it. In doing so, a sense of wellbeing is shown to be within the grasp of us all.
“This is an important study that will lead you to question just about everything you hear about ‘wellbeing’.” – Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology, University of Kent, and author of Therapy Culture
“Mark Vernon is one of the most thoughtful, accessible and lucid popular philosophers writing today.” – Julian Baggini, Editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine
"A beautifully written book." – Australian Journal of Adult Learning
Mark Vernon is a freelance writer and journalist. He is an Honorary Research Fellow of Birkbeck College, London.
Introduction: happy yet?
1. Pleasure and pain
2. The meaning dimension
3. Turning to the transcendent
4. Discerning the mystery
5. The power of love