‘We do not need to fear the world, or treat it with suspicion. Any monsters that dwell there are our own’
I just finished reading Happy- Why more or less everything is absolutely fine by Derren Brown.
And I could not recommend it highly enough.
I started composing an Instagram post but it was becoming too long so I thought I’d write about it here instead.
Most people know Derren Brown as a magician, showman, painter or even photographer but he is an incredibly intelligent, knowledgeable, modern day philosopher who writes amazingly beautifully.
I’ve read all of his books, but this is definitely my favourite.
Funny, informative, wise, beautifully written (I had to google a lot of words, you might not need to if English is your first language), emotional.
He starts with a brief history of how happiness has been defined through time, from the ancient Greeks, who if you haven’t read any of their work, I’d urge you to (I studied ancient Greek at school (which I didn’t enjoy much) but when you are a 16 year old going through the teenage years, with not many experiences in life, you cannot fully comprehend the value of it), to religion and how it changed the way humans viewed happiness (i.e that is OK to suffer in this life because you will be rewarded and be happy after you die) to today’s sheer optimism and beliefs that if you really want something it will happen- spoiler alert- it won’t.
He follows that with how to apply stoic methods in your life, how to deal with anger, hurt and fame and then with my favourite part of the whole book, ‘happy endings’ in which he discusses about a fear we all have, the fear of death, how to die well and how to live now.
There is too much in the book I can possibly share in a post but what I kept:
- There are only two things you can control, your thoughts and your actions (which is not easy I know, but it’s under your control). Anything else, and I mean ANYTHING else is completely out of your control. You can set as many life goals as you want but you can only the do the best you can, that doesn’t mean you can reach them because life, fate, luck, other people are out of your control. The only realistic goal you can set is to do the best of your abilities.
- On that note, you can’t control others’ behavior and actions, but you can control yours. That is SO important to realise, although is hard.
- Do not compare yourself with everyone else. You haven’t had the same upbringing, life experiences, luck.
- We are all scared of dying. But if you think about it, if we were immortals nothing would really matter. There will be nothing to look forward to because at some point we would have done it all, and we will eventually get bored. And there is nothing to fear about because we have been there. Before we were born, our brain and body didn’t exist, we were ‘dead’ before we came to life. That took me a while to digest!
- After we die, we live through the memories of our loved ones. Because when they think of us, they think of how we thought and behaved and every time they think of us, a tiny version of us is replicated in their brain, for that moment their brain functions in a similar way our brain did. What a beautiful revelation! We really die when our name has been spoken for the last ever time. So what’s the best we can do? Do good, help others, create amazing memories and share them with your loved ones and the world.
- Debra. Everything about this lovely lady truly touched me. Debra was a fan of Derren who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and kept in contact with Derren until she died. There is something special about terminally ill people who I don’t think I can understand unless it happens to me. They only do what they really want to because the little time they have left is precious and not to be wasted. They enjoy and cherish every moment. They live in the now. They have reached high levels of mindfulness and this clarity of mind that is incredibly hard to achieve.
So what is the best way to live? Although your past has taught you a lot, is in the past. You should learn to recognise how it affected and affects you but leave it in the past. It does not define you. Remember you control your thoughts so you can change the way your past is affecting you.
Find the right balance between living in the moment and the future. A year ago I used to believe that living in the moment and not make any plans for the future or even think about the future was the way forward but a couple of months before I read this book, I realised that living in the moment is still important but without having something to look forward to, without a future, it feels pointless. And after reading this book, it all makes sense.
And finally, ‘good enough’ is good enough. There is nothing wrong with living a ‘good enough’ life.
Love you all x