Alain De Botton, Derren Brown on Magic & Happiness London, 4 Dec 2013.

My admiration to those putting together this event with two famous names to facilitate it. Tickets go from £25 to £35 if not already sold out: Alain De Botton – Derren Brown on magic and happiness [London 4 December 2013].

Now, please don’t read on if you hope for more “sales pitch” because what follows is a very critical view of similar talks (not so much this one).

Are you sure you want to read on?
You may find this “infuriating” if you don’t like other people having opinions of their own.
OK, you’ve been warned. You took the red M&M…

1st critique: replacing religion and cults. For a first world society _moving away from blind cult following towards ownership of actions and beliefs_ we sure like to hang-on to the “Life truths” of idols or self-made thinkers. Particularly on “leading happy and fulfilling lives”. We do need guides but, are these celebrities enriching our independence or just taking the place of existing cults in favour of their own wallets?

2nd critique: generalisations that block life experiences. Most speakers generalise and devalue the infinite possibilities of human experience by using generic wording. Often on matters that individuals are seeking advice on, and at times at which an opinion from an authority figure could completely shape their outlook on life.
Speakers over-simplify happiness _naturaly found through personal journeys_ because the simpler and “positiver” the message the more attention they’ll get. Some self-help speakers constrain the journey even more by referring listeners to their own books instead of encouraging self-reflection and individual research.

3rd critique: hundreds treated as one, “simply sharing my opinion” and misleading titles. Gullible, “searching” people like yours-truly, need to be even more careful than most about the 1st and 2nd critiques above. There’s nothing worse than to be searching for meaning while having a predisposition to believe everything we’re told, or we initially think we’re told, word for word. Untangling this brings an amount of pain and effort that delays progress. The title, the wording, the artifacts in these self-help talks approach the audience as a “one”. Sadly, very few speakers are skilled enough to respect the audience’s granularity.

It is now nearly impossible to meet humble and moderate approaches to philosophy and opinion, because there’s a huge market for it and authors need to sell theirs. I’m glad that my current economy (of thought) keeps my focus away from such “services” and more reliant on my life’s random occurrences (free so far) and established beliefs (from which I can choose, also for free).

That’s the end of that M&M.
[Image source]


5 thoughts on “Alain De Botton, Derren Brown on Magic & Happiness London, 4 Dec 2013.

  1. Pingback: Bare Bones Biology 174 – The Real Answer | factfictionfancy

  2. Well, of course it requires hard work to accomplish one’s belief system, and that hard work in my opinion correlates common human experiences and checks them very carefully against the larger facts (facts are provable things that do not change over time and relative to different people).

    You seem to be a humanist. You therefore probably do not have the information necessary to do the second part of this. My experience was vastly improved (I am a WASP) by comparing Tibetan Buddhism with biological fact. To do this I first had to recognize mis-translations (happiness is one of them) and then I had to identify the metaphores and figure out what they mean, and then I spent about 40 years studying science (and recognizing that intentional metaphores have no place there) and about 6 year studying Buddhism, and now I can’t talk to anyone.

    But the bottom line, in this day and age, humanism is not enough, because humanism today belives in the dominance of humankind over everything else, and that is not true, so you begin and end with a lie that benefits only the welfare of deep pockets. I think that’s what you said, right?

    • Yes, there is enough material to support the idea that we have moved away from myths, beliefs and the sort of self-reflection that does not pigeon-hole approaches to life under an -ism.

      My instinct (a somewhat uneducated one) is that a good evolutionary outcome of today’s “world” would be the union of all “life-meaning giving systems” into One that fully acknowledges the granularity within living populations; that fully enriches, individual by individual, the perceptions of life, in balance with their natural surroundings.

      A tall order. Yes, we are working along the same lines, I wouldn’t call myself a Humanist, nope :).

  3. Thanks for this post which grounds us in reality. I completely agree that modest and realistic guidelines to a better life are in very short supply. I’ve come across one book recently which is clear in its critique of the snake oil salesmen and offers a carefully explained and moderate way we could all improve our take on the world: ‘Redirect: the surprising new science of psychological change.’ It’s by Timothy Wilson. It will probably not sell well as it is neither simplistic nor dramatic. A great shame!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s