Uncertainty as the Secret of Happiness


December 29, 2013

Food for Thought ahead of 2014. Negativity is the antidote to positiveFacebook-K and D thinking. So rediscover the power of negative thinking and may you find Happiness and Success, says Mr. Burkeman. For me the key to happiness is to be one’s authentic self. I have always looked at the positive side of life. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. That is the dictum for me. Good luck, Mr. Burkeman.–Din Merican

Against Positive Thinking: Uncertainty as the Secret of Happiness

by Maria Popova

Exploring the “negative path” to well-being.

Having studied under Positive Psychology pioneer Dr. Martin Seligman, and having read a great deal on the art-science of happiness and the role of optimism in well-being, I was at first incredulous of a book with the no doubt intentionally semi-scandalous title of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking (public library). But, as it often turns out, author Oliver Burkeman argues for a much more sensible proposition — namely, that we’ve created a culture crippled by the fear of failure, and that the most important thing we can do to enhance our psychoemotional wellbeing is to embrace uncertainty.

Besides, the book has a lovely animated trailer — always a win

Burkeman writes in The Guardian:

[Research] points to an alternative approach [to happiness]: a ‘negative path’ to happiness that entails taking a radically different stance towards those things most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid. This involves learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity and becoming familiar with failure. In order to be truly happy, it turns out, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions – or, at the very least, to stop running quite so hard from them.

The American edition (once again with an uglified, dumbed down, and contrived cover design) won’t be out until November, but you can snag a British edition here, or hunt it down at your favorite public library.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/06/21/oliver-burkeman-the-antidote/

9 thoughts on “Uncertainty as the Secret of Happiness

  1. This is indeed a good gymnastic play of words. If we can “… enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity and becoming familiar with failure”, how else do we describe our attitude except being comfortable and positive towards everything in life, come what may? Without any doubt, that’s an excellent way of achieving happiness. May 2014 bring so much happiness to all in this blog & those outside too – be positive and let’s shun negative thinking.

  2. Din, aliefalfa,

    I think we need to accept uncertainty as a part of life, in reality to be happy as we accept the Quantum Theory which could only predict the Exact Position of the electron orbiting the nucleus with high Probability, but Not Certainty.

    For every positive Charge or side there is a negative .
    Can anyone tells me which comes first ?
    or Perhaps, exist together , simultaneously ?

  3. Happiness? Really? Too small a space to discuss what it means, my friends. Too subjective. Don’t bother to go into quantum mechanics nor general relativity – or you’d mess yourselves up about the ‘Nature of Reality’.

    All we can hope for, in this Life, is to be ‘Reasonably’ Happy (see Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer). My grandpa, God bless his soul, was a devout spiritual Christian, who looked at life and happiness as the flow of a River (could have been a reincarnated Yogi, haha). He told me to distinguish Silence, Loneliness, Solace and Serenity. Throughout it’s journey it will encounter many paths and uncertainty – but it’s ultimate end is the same.

    So much for Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle or Schrodinger’s Equation:

  4. Not being a scientist, this is what little thing I had gathered from an Encyclopaedia – but please check it out.
    Of course all things related to Energy is ‘ unpredictable ‘ b’coz its motion is in the speed of Light. Hence, the uncertainty principle.
    In the atomic particle, the motion of three sub-particles, Electron, Proton, Neutron, moves in tremendous speed, but maintain a kind of ‘ balance ‘ , holding the inner core in a state of ‘ equilibrium ‘ ( or inertia, despite its velocity)
    What scientist have done is to ‘ break’ this balance, by interfering the space in between them, thus off-setting the ‘ balance ‘. In so doing, the negative charge ‘ moves ‘ towards the positive : This motion or ‘ movement ‘ become electric ” Current ” , hence Electrical Energy.
    The inner workings of Energy in the quantum level, the innermost workings at the sub-atomic level , as I understood it, is still a mystery as yet beyond human ‘comprehension ‘……

  5. Sorry, I was carried away by kilau’s remark above and have gone off tangent from the topic.
    Still, what scientists have contributed, are amazing discoveries and inventions. Not merely electrical energy, how about chemical energy, mechanical energy, sound energy (telephone), or even hydro-energy by which the motion of water works on the turbine which runs the apparatus to produce Electric current, and recently Nuclear energy ?
    Why are human beings still beset with Unhappiness, when Scientists have contributed TREMENDOUSLY providing for human happiness by giving solutions to overcome most of the miseries relating to numerous obstacles in the life of man for his survival and existence ?
    I humbly contend that the mind-set of people who are unreasonably ‘ strict ‘ about religion to the exclusion of scientific ideas & knowledge are SKEWED in the mind, instead to embrace and be thankful to what sciences have contributed toward human happiness….. ?

  6. Obviously, you have no idea what ‘Quantum Mechanics’ mean, Abnizar. If you apply Consciousness as Metaphysics you might end up as a Quantum Mystic – like your friend Dr Deepak Chopra – who looks like a charlatan, to folks like me. Pinnochio is better, because his deception is ‘obvious’.

    Well, an easy way to look at it, is this – “Allah” is indeterminate at the smallest of scales. Even in the largest of scales – He is ‘missing’ in about 96% of the ‘Observable Universe’ – i.e Dark Energy and Natter. So tell me – is it not good, not to ‘entangle’ religion and science, which is actually Methodological Chaos?

    Best you stick to solid spherical golf-balls while envisioning sub-atomic ‘particles’ which are actually not ‘particles’. Wave-Particle Duality, Quantum Entanglement and the Nature of Time, so forth. Please Forgive me for being dismissive, but you’d otherwise mess yourself up big-time – as i said. And I don’t have the luxury of changing your diapers. Neither has Din..

  7. Ha…ha….Laughable CLF , .coz I have no wish to be ‘personal’. No, I only take one or two matters of Deepak Chopra seriously, I feel more inclined, nay I revere Albert Einstein (a Jew ) : quote : Science without religion is lame, religion without Science is blind ( unquote ). Two sides of the same coin, No ?

    Why, to me , Quantum physics and Quantum mechanics, although they are kindred, they are two different things – physics is ‘substantive’, whereas mechanics is mechanic, No ?
    You have double negatives there , CLF read again : ‘ Is it not good , not to ‘entangle’ religion and science, which is Methodical Chaos ? ‘ ( one is ‘ matter ‘, the other ‘method’ or methodology ), to my thinking both are good ! No ?

    By the way, true or not we have to figure. I was told ( by an ‘angel’) when a child or baby dies, its straight to heaven. Not an elderly or an aged man, ‘coz he accumulates ‘pollutions’ in old age ( not sure ) – yes, No ?
    No luxury of time is correct….No ?

  8. Okay buddy, i’ll give you a clue on what is the current trend in Quantum ‘Science’ (physics and mechanics mean, the same here) and my own very nascent understanding. We can connect Religion to Science, but not use Science to explain God. Good that you noticed the double negatives (Via Negativa)

    Reality and solidity is a function of ‘Consciousness’. The nucleus of an atom is 100,000 times smaller than the electron ‘cloud’ around it. Therefore what we perceive as solid is actually empty space. So is the whole Universe.

    They have been unable to explain the ‘Observer’ paradox – in which subatomic ‘particles’ only ‘appear’ when there’s a conscious observer (look up the double slit or Young’s experiment on you-tube) – and since there is an uncertainty as to positions, the conscious observer collapses the ‘wave-function’ so that we see a ‘particle’ e.g an electron or photon or whatever. Also, this became the basis of a pure thought experiment called Schrodinger’s cat and it’s corollary and Wigner’s friend – which describes the observer as being in a ‘Superposition’.

    Consciousness is beyond physics and is therefore ‘metaphysical’ and is posited to be the stuff of Reality itself. Something that goes well with Descartes: “I think, therefore I Am” (Ergo Cogito Sum). God is not knowable and we can only describe what, who and why He is Not – not What/Who/Why He Is. The Tetragammaton – YHWH, means ‘I Am, Who I Am/Was/Will Be’: Therefore Totally and Irrefutably Conscious. He is not called ‘Allah’, ‘Jesus’ or anything comprehensible to Man. My faith as a Christian, is besides the point. If God is Consciousness, then all our emotions are derived from that consciousness. So God is NOT a MAN writ large, but is within each and every Conscious being. But actually how many of us are actually conscious enough to search for Love, Truth and God?

    God does not need us to worship Him, but it is Man who needs to worship to fulfill and ‘touch’ Him. Happiness is thus an Illusion engendered by our ‘connectivity’.
    Compredo? Never mind..

  9. Yes Buddy….Embrace – exquisite CLF.

    My own indulgence in Quantum Physics/Quantum Mechanics is precisely the innermost ‘ workings ‘ of Energy in the minutest sub-atomic level, is NOT to describe or explain or to SBSTITUTE ” God “, but merely to show His manifestations of the Created Universe by such a Supremely Intelligent Force – meaning He IS The ‘ Creator “, and that material Universe did NOT happen by itself as a random happening as conventional thinking suggest.

    In other words, all these Manifestations PROVES rather than disprove ” God ” ( As to why Muslim & Koran describes the Supreme Being as ” Allah” can be a journey of the Individual’s lifetime , so that’s different)

    True, most Scientist-Physicists have known of the existence of the ‘ Atomic’ particles, but had no or little knowledge of the inner-workings of it. Until, the Danish renowned Physicist NEIL BOHRs discovered the Process of Atomic Fission in 1859. ( Atomic Fusion and Fission ). That BECAME the ‘ Mechanics ‘ by which Man could tap and ” USE” the Energy-force for human advantage…..(see the beauty of their discoveries ? )

    All the rest of your Comments I have accepted with open arms….let’s Embrace, buddy !

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