Monday, March 28, 2016

Book Review: Stumbling on Happiness

‘Stumbling on Happiness’ by DANIEL GILBERT has the author wondering at the remarkable achievements of human brain. In Part I, the author identifies ‘making future’ as one of its main business and, along with the other feature of anticipating future, how, the impacts from unpleasant events are minimized. In Part II and part III of this book is found, an exploration into the science of happiness. How we beautifully steer ourselves toward the futures that we think will make us happy. Sometimes our journey takes us to unseen horizons, using our imaginations to look into time. Just as our eyes sometimes lead us to see things as they are not, our imaginations sometimes lead us to foresee things as they will not be. The shortcomings of imagination that give rise to the illusion of foresight are dealt in this book. When we come to Part IV, one of the principal causes of dismay, the wide difference between the products of imagination and the results of reality is analyzed, and how we adjust to our shortcoming in imagination. Thereafter in Part V, another major difficulty for we humans, how to reconcile with actual present, while maintaining that we are highly imaginative, is put to test. If we have trouble foreseeing future events, then we have even more trouble foreseeing how we will see them when they happen. Finally, in Part VI illusions of foresight are examined. Like why we remember our previous mistakes more often than our appropriate responses, just because mistakes were unusual. As our ability to simulate future selves and future circumstances is by no means perfect, and as we imagine future feelings, we find it impossible to ignore what we are feeling now and impossible to recognize how we will think about the things that happen later, we end up stumbling on happiness.
This is an interesting book, a page turner. Witty observations, interesting narratives and sharp, incisive comments make this an engaging one.  For example, about futuristic literature, the author says, If you leaf through a few of them, you quickly notice that each of these books says more about the times in which it was written than about the times it was meant to foretell”. A rich collection of anecdotes and real life stories enliven the ambience. I could notice one thing protruding, though the author mentions in the book that certain corrective measures are suggested to improve our ability to predict correctly, the relevant discussion could have touched these issues a little more deeply.

Thoroughly enjoyable and informative.