📚️ Book Notes: The Courage to be Happy
One of those rare sequels that make you want to read more. I found a lot of parallels with religious texts. Everyone should read this.
Here are my notes from The Courage to be Happy:
Religion explains the world by means of stories. You could say that gods are the protagonists of the grand stories that religions use to explain the world. By contrast, philosophy rejects stories. It tries to explain the world by means of abstract concepts that have no protagonists.
In our search for truth, we are walking on a long pole that extends into the darkness. Doubting our common sense and engaging in continual self-questioning, we just continue to walk on that pole without any idea of how far it may go. And then, from out of the darkness one hears a voice inside saying, ‘Nothing further lies ahead. Here is truth.’ So, some people stop listening to their internal voice and stop walking. They jump down from the pole. Do they find truth there? I don’t know. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But stopping in one’s steps and jumping off the pole midway is what I call religion. With philosophy, one keeps walking without end. It doesn’t matter if gods are there or not.
Socrates, in his dialogues with the self-described wise men known as the Sophists, arrived at the following conclusion: I (Socrates) know that ‘my knowledge is not complete’. I know my own ignorance. The Sophists, on the other hand, those would-be wise men, intend to understand everything and know nothing of their own ignorance. In this respect—my knowledge of my own ignorance—I am more of a wise man than they are. This is the context of Socrates’ famous statement, ‘I know that I know nothing.’
Counselling and childhood education are essentially the same.
Education is not intervention but assistance towards self-reliance.
How would it be if one were thrown into society without knowing any traffic rules; without knowing the meaning of red lights and green lights? Or, if one had no car-driving skills and found oneself behind the wheel? Naturally, there are rules to be learned here and skills to be attained. This is an issue of life and death and, moreover, of putting other people’s lives in danger as well. One could also put it the other way around and say that if there were no other people left on Earth and you were the only person alive there would not be anything you would have to know, and education would not be necessary, either. You would not have any need for knowledge.
PHILOSOPHER: There are many parents and educators who disapprove and try to give them things that are more ‘useful’ or ‘worthwhile’. They advise against such activities, confiscate the books and toys and allow the children only what has been determined to have value. The parent does this ‘for the child’s sake’, of course. Even so, one must regard this as an act that is completely lacking in respect and that only increases the parent’s distance from the child. Because it is negating the child’s natural concerns. YOUTH: Okay, so I should recommend vulgar pastimes? PHILOSOPHER: One does not recommend anything from where one stands. One only has concern for the children’s concerns. Try to understand just how vulgar their pastimes are from your point of view and what they really are, first of all. Try them yourself, and even play together on occasion. Rather than simply playing with them, enjoy the activity yourself. If you do, the children may at last have the real feeling that they are being recognised; that they are not being treated as children; that they are being given respect as individual human beings.
Suppose, for example, that you are in distress over your life right now. Let’s say that you are wishing you could change yourself. But changing yourself means giving up on yourself until now, denying yourself until now and never again showing the face of yourself until now, as if you were sending it to its grave, in effect. Because once you have done that, you will be reborn as your new self at last. Now, regardless of how dissatisfied you may be with your current situation, can you choose death? Can you throw yourself into the bottomless darkness? This is not such an easy thing to talk about. That is why people do not try to change and why they want to feel okay with things as they are, no matter how tough life gets. And they end up living in search of ‘okay as I am’ ingredients in order to affirm their current situation.
From the innumerable events that have happened in a person’s past, that person chooses only those events that are compatible with the present goals, gives meaning to them and turns them into memories. And conversely, events that run counter to the present goals are erased.
If their presence is likely to be otherwise ignored, they would much rather be rebuked. They want their presence recognised and they want to be put in a special position, even if it takes the form of rebuke. That is their wish.
By resorting to violence, one can push through one’s demands without expending time or effort. To put it more directly, one can make the other party submit to one. In every way, violence is a low-cost, easy means of communication. But before deeming it morally unacceptable, we must say that it is a rather immature form of conduct for people to engage in.
What should parents and educators do when confronted with problem behaviour in children? Adler advises that we ‘renounce the standpoint of the judge’. You have not been granted the privilege of passing down judgements. Maintaining law and order is not your job.
Violence, which includes reprimand, is a form of communication that reveals one’s immaturity as a human being. This is something that the children know well enough themselves. Whenever they receive reprimands, in addition to their fear of violent conduct, at an unconscious level they have the insight that ‘This is an immature person.’ This is a much bigger problem than the adults think. Could you respect an immature human being? And could you have a real feeling of being respected by someone who threatens you in a violent manner? There is no respect in communication with anger and violence. Rather, such communication invites contempt. That reprimand does not lead to substantive improvement is a self-evident truth. On this point, Adler states, ‘Anger is an emotion that pulls people apart.’
‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom always to tell the difference.’
It is easier to live according to ‘direction from another’. One does not have to think about difficult things, and one does not have to take responsibility for failure. All one has to do is swear a certain allegiance and someone will take care of all one’s troublesome tasks. From children in families and schools, to members of society working at companies and government offices, to clients who come for counselling.
When children fail, and especially when they disturb others, it is only natural that you, too, are held responsible. It is your responsibility as an educator and as a supervisor, and, if you are a parent, it is your responsibility as a parent. What can one do to evade that responsibility? The answer is easy: control the children. One allows the children to take only those paths that are safe and free from harm, without permitting any adventure. One keeps them under one’s control as much as possible. One does not do this out of concern for the children. It is all for one’s own self-protection.
Suppose a child asks, ‘Can I go and play at my friend’s place?’ There are parents who will grant permission, ‘Of course you can,’ and then set the condition, ‘Once you’ve done your homework.’ And there are others who will simply prohibit their children from going out to play. Both are forms of conduct that put the child in a position of dependence and irresponsibility. Instead, teach the child by saying, ‘That is something you can decide on your own.’ Teach that one’s own life and one’s everyday actions are things that one determines oneself. And if deciding things requires certain ingredients—knowledge and experience, for example—then provide them. That is how educators should be.
Praising is the passing of judgement by a person of ability on a person of no ability, and its goal is manipulation.
PHILOSOPHER: I am telling you this as a friend. You have been talking about education all day long, but that is not where your real troubles lie. You have not learned to be happy yet. You are not able to have the courage to be happy. And you did not choose the path of the educator because you wanted to save children. You wanted to be saved through the act of saving them. YOUTH: What did you say? PHILOSOPHER: By saving another person, one tries to be saved oneself. By passing oneself off as a kind of saviour, one attempts to realise one’s own worth. This is one form of the superiority complex that people who cannot dispel their feelings of inferiority often fall into, and it is generally referred to as a messiah complex. It is a mental perversion of wanting to be a messiah, a saviour of others. YOUTH: Don’t mess around! What are you suggesting, all of a sudden? PHILOSOPHER: Raising one’s voice in anger in such a way is also an expression of feelings of inferiority. When one’s feelings of inferiority are aroused, one tries to resolve them by using the emotion of anger.
Take the rules of traffic on public roads, for example. It is on the basis of our trust that all people follow the rules of traffic that we pass through a green light. We are not having confidence in people unconditionally. We do look to the left and right first. But even then, we are placing a certain trust in other people whom we have never met. In a sense, this, too, is a work relationship, in that it is fulfilling a shared interest in the smooth flow of traffic.
PHILOSOPHER: Rather than the self-interested seeking of ‘my happiness’ or the other-interested wishing for ‘your happiness’, it is the building of a happiness of an inseparable ‘us’. That is love. YOUTH: An inseparable us? PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. One upholds ‘us’ as being higher than ‘me’ or ‘you’. One maintains that order in all one’s choices in life. One does not give precedence to the happiness of ‘me’, and one is not satisfied with only the happiness of ‘you’. Unless it is the happiness of two of ‘us’, it has no meaning. Such is the ‘task accomplished by two people’.
You are standing now at the edge of the dance floor of life and just watching the dancing people. You are assuming that ‘There couldn’t be anyone who would dance with someone like me,’ while in your heart you are waiting impatiently for your destined one to reach their hand out to you. You are doing everything you can to endure and to protect yourself, so that you do not feel any more miserable than you do already and so that you do not begin to dislike yourself. There is one thing that you should do. Take the hand of the person beside you, and try to do the best dance that you can possibly do in that moment. Your destiny will start from there.
One devotes one’s ceaseless efforts so that when the day of parting comes, one will be able to be satisfied that ‘Meeting this person, and passing the time together with this person, was not a mistake.’ Whether it is in one’s relationship with one’s students, in one’s relationship with one’s parents or in one’s relationship with the person one loves. If, for example, your relationship with your parents came to an end all of a sudden, or a relationship with a student or a friend came to an end, would you be able to accept it as the best possible parting?
If you liked the above content, I'd definitely recommend reading the whole book. 💯
Until We Meet Again...