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Showing posts from April 15, 2012

The Lost Art of Living -- Writer's Poke #383

“Measuring Happiness” is one of my more recent Writer’s Pokes. According to the blogger stats, it’s generating more hits than any other post within the last few weeks. In fact, it’s generating about ten times the amount of interest of any other post. The key word in the title is “Happiness,” and apparently people are searching for it.


Living is an art, or should be. For a long time I had Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” up on my office wall. This is a fairly iconic painting that probably most people know, but why is it so popular? Is it true that most of us live lives of quiet desperation? Am I, and others, attracted to this painting simply because the central focal character is no longer staying quiet?

What makes life so difficult? Many of us may think we’re “connected,” but more and more we spend our lives isolated from real human contact. Even saying “hello” to someone passing by in the hallway may seem pointless, especially if “hello” is the only thing you ever say to that person. Wh…

No Instruction Manual -- Writer's Poke #382

At the end of Chapter 2 of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig writes, “We were all spectators. And it occurred to me there is no manual that deals with the real business of motorcycle maintenance, the most important aspect of all. Caring about what you are doing is considered either unimportant or taken for granted.” Now, assume for a moment that “motorcycle maintenance” is a metaphor for life. How do people live? By a instruction manual? Can an instruction manual teach caring?

Granted, some people may claim that an “instruction manual” for living exists, but does any written document really explain how to live a purposeful life? And, how do people use the written documents they claim as “life’s instruction manual”?

Pirsig’s friend John is dependent on his instruction manual. He doesn’t know his motorcycle, and therefore, he falls back on what the manual tells him to do. He doesn’t have the ability to deviate from the manual. He assumes the manual is 100% accur…

The Key -- Writer's Poke #381

Lakshmi doesn’t know much of anything about the outside world, but like the other girls who live at Happiness House, she is fascinated by television. When she first came to the city, she thought that the roofs of houses would have golden roofs, but even though that turned out to be false, television didn’t disappoint her. In fact, television is better than golden roofs. Even the commercials.


What the girls most like to watch is American soap operas. What do they think when the watch Days of Our Lives or One Life to Live? Do they assume that what they are watching is real? Remember: these are the same girls from the country who didn’t even know what to expect from the city. The city didn’t turn out as they expected, but can they still believe in the magic of America?

Americans, they all know, cannot be trusted. Is this lesson reinforced by the soap operas they watch? America is undoubtedly a strange and mysterious place, but perhaps there is no real to assume that all Americans are b…