The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes it Hard to be Happy

The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes it Hard to be Happy

Michael Foley

Language: English

Pages: 174


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In a wry take on how contemporary culture is antithetical to happiness, Michael Foley paints a philosophical but hugely entertaining portrait of the cultural landscape—and comes up smiling

The good news is that the great thinkers from history have proposed the same strategies for happiness and fulfillment—the bad news is that these turn out to be the very things most discouraged by contemporary culture. This knotty dilemma is the subject of Michael Foley's wry and accessible investigation into how the desirable states of well-being and satisfaction are constantly undermined by modern life. He examines the elusive condition of happiness common to philosophy, spiritual teachings, and contemporary psychology, then shows how these are becoming increasingly difficult to apply in a world of high expectations. The common challenges of earning a living, maintaining a relationship, and aging are becoming battlegrounds of existential angst and self-loathing in a culture that demands conspicuous consumption, high-octane partnerships, and perpetual youth. Ultimately, rather than denouncing and rejecting the age, Foley presents an entertaining strategy of not just accepting but embracing today's world—finding happiness in its absurdity.













talents including virtuousness, intelligence and of course sexual performance. This made me think of my self-important teaching colleagues – and, sure enough, Haidt says of college professors, ‘94 per cent of us think we do above-average work.’75 Needless to say, I am among this 94 per cent. And it turns out that teachers are even more deluded than students – a mere 70 per cent of students believe they are above average. The temptation to laugh is checked by another troubling thought: most of my

Gustave Flaubert thought so: ‘Happiness is not attainable though tranquillity is’6, which sounds more like an admission of defeat and surrender. But, as a literary man rather than a philosopher, Flaubert was a bit inconsistent and did leave open a narrow window of opportunity: ‘Stupidity, selfishness and good health are the three prerequisites of happiness, though if stupidity is lacking the others are useless.’7 In fact, these quotes are from Flaubert’s good days. Essentially he subscribed,

virulent in Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. What have these men to say to those who work for a living, remain with a partner and rear a family? And then speculative thought is so elusive, so hard to grasp and retain, never mind apply. It seems to pass through the mind like a breeze through a tree – there is a brief excited stirring and then the leaves return to their dream. But re-reading Erich Fromm for the first time in thirty years was a revealing experience for me. I was sure I had retained

should I be unhappy and pull down my face and drag my feet and make everybody around me feel that way too? By being what you are, something always comes up. Sunshine always opens out.’289 And in literature there is Shakespeare, whose late plays burst out of the constraints of the play form, in particular its unity of time and place. The late works – The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, The Tempest, Pericles: Prince of ‘Tyre and The Two Noble Kinsmen – are known as romances but aspire to the freedom of

have paid large sums to a management guru who describes himself as ‘the leading world authority on creative thinking’ and claims that, ‘without wishing to boast’, his latest system is ‘the first new way of thinking to be developed for 2,400 years since the days of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle’. Known as the ‘Six Thinking Hats’, this system requires managers to don a red hat for proposing a project, a yellow hat for listing its advantages, a black hat for its disadvantages and so on. But, as well

Download sample