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Wherein lies happiness?

“Happiness does not lie in happiness, but in the achievement of it.”

– Feodor Dostoevsky

In this quote the famous 19th century Russian writer Dostoevsky claims that happiness is not an entity in and of itself. In identifying happiness as a product of achievement, Dostoevsky is identifying it as something to be earned. This attitude was shared by many of his fellow existentialists. For them, happiness came to be seen as a result of work put toward the completion of a goal. In other words, it is only in crossing the finish line successfully that we have cause for celebration. Existentialists such as Dostoevsky would not have simply celebrated effort, as we often do today. There is something to be said for finding happiness in both success and effort and the postmodern world has taken to setting up “minigoals” while considering the entire journey and not just the destination. Our current attitude toward happiness has come to be influenced by Eastern philosophy and psychology.

While the existentialist attitude toward happiness doesn’t match the current one, the impact of 19th century writers such as Feodor Dostoevsky can’t be ignored.  Like many of his contemporaries, Dostoevsky wrote in different genres and he came to be known as novelist, short story writer, essayist, journalist and philosopher. My two favorite works of his are Crime and Punishment and The Idiot. His corpus belongs to the literary movement of Realism and he wrote endlessly about the human condition.

Danger Defined by One of the Greats

“The greatest danger most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

– Michelangelo

Michelangelo was one of the great Renaissance men.

He lived in an amazing and exciting time in history and was what we now call a “jack of all trades.”

In the above quote he is pointing the danger of not challenging ourselves. Michelangelo was successful in his highly varied endeavors because he aimed high.

Snow Falling on Cedars

The first snowfall of 2019 arrived today in Baltimore.

The magic of snow has been with me since childhood.

I have fond memories of mixing clean snow with orange juice and slurping it down and making little snow angels with my friends.

I have also inherited memories of snowfalls.

The older generations of my family spent a great deal of time in Lebanon where snow falls on the cedars of the mountains while the beach awaits at the foothills.

The O. Henry Prize Stories

Every year Anchor Books publishes a collection of short stories honoring O. Henry.

The 2018 edition did not disappoint and I highly recommend it.

O. Henry’s given name was William Sidney Porter. He was born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1862 and wrote over 600 stories.

The most famous of his stories is probably “The Gift of the Magi.”

He is known for his surprise endings.

What is Education?

“Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”

– William Butler Yeats

Yeats’ definition of education is a useful model.

Some believe that the learning process is really a piling on of more and more information.

Yeats points out the opposite.

Because, education, if not sparked by passion, does not endure.

Weights and Measures

“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.”

– Plato

The Greek philosopher, Plato, emphasizes the importance of making sound decisions.

So what kind of decision would Plato identify as “sound?”

Well, he appears to be downplaying the importance of numbers or the “bottomline,” which has become so prevalent.

In Ancient Greece, mathematics was already in use but people valued what we now refer to as “the big picture” and trusted it more than just facts and figures.

That is what Plato means by “knowledge” – looking for the big picture.