"... it pointed to an alternative approach, a 'negative path' to happiness, which entailed taking a radically different stance towards those things that most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid. It involved learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity, stopping trying to think positively, becoming familiar with failure, even learning to value death, In short, all these people seemed to agree that in order to be truly happy we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions--or, at the every least, to learn to stop running quite so hard from them. Which is a bewildering thought, and one that calls into question not just our methods for achieving happiness, but also our assumptions about what 'happiness' really means."
--The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman
I am absolutely loving friend, Observatory presenter, and resident genius/Guardian writer Oliver Burkeman's new book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking. A kind of 200 page confutation of the accepted wisdom of "positive thinking" and other truisms of the self-help movement, it is also a terrific and witty introduction to a multitude of exceptionally wise philosophies whose tenants run counter to those ideas, from The Stoics to Buddhism to Mexican Day of the Dead. The result is a book which provides a persuasive argument for reviving the notion of the memento mori--objects or artworks whose function is to urge the beholder to contemplate the fact that they, too, will die--and which takes the unpopular stand that to be truly happy, to live a good and full life, we need to embrace, or at least learn to tolerate, negativity, uncertainty, and death. Ideas that, obviously, I strongly share.
Memento-mori themed painting found here.