Hedonomics II: The Little Things

It’s not all economics, with respect to (the aforementioned) Laureates Sen and Stiglitz. It can be as simple as finding daily rituals. Make the bed. Plant a garden. It’s a start. Gretchen Rubin knows. Rubin’s The Happiness Project was deeply informed by a woman she now considers her “spiritual master,” Saint Therese of Lisieux.


One thing that drew Rubin to Therese was the Saint’s rigorous focus on finding meaning in “little things,” and as Rubin—a former Editor of the Yale Law Review, not afraid of rigorous analysis—concludes, it is the little things that matter most. In her interview with Big Think, Rubin shares her views on everything from how to develop resolutions to the diverse uses of blogs and books.

“What is happiness?” is not a question Rubin is looking to answer, ironically. Rather, she is concerned with the state of being happy, and being happy is possible only when we have a clear sense of what we feel. Rubin has read widely, and one of her conclusions is immediately actionable: know yourself.

Rubin’s analysis allows for consideration of the academic aspects of happiness including The Arrival Fallacy, The Hedonic Treadmill, The Atmosphere of Growth. But, perhaps more compellingly, she allows us to think about the simple things that fill our daily lives, and how to shift our perceptions of them so as to make them more meaningful. Friends. Lovers. Peers. One of her most provocative notes relates to intellectual interaction. “It actually takes more social courage to be enthusiastic,” she observes.

Consider the “little things” of Saint Therese:

She loved flowers and saw herself as the "little flower of Jesus," who gave glory to God by just being her beautiful little self among all the other flowers in God's garden. Because of this beautiful analogy, the title "little flower" remained with St. Therese.

Her inspiration and powerful presence from heaven touched many people very quickly. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925. Had she lived, she would have been only 52 years old when she was declared a Saint.

"My mission - to make God loved - will begin after my death," she said. "I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses." Roses have been described and experienced as Saint Therese's signature. Countless millions have been touched by her intercession and imitate her "little way." She has been acclaimed "the greatest saint of modern times." In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared St. Therese a Doctor of the Church - the only Doctor of his pontificate - in tribute to the powerful way her spirituality has influenced people all over the world.

Rubin’s message is not centered on religion, or even spiritualism, but it is grounded in Little Things. This truth is seductive because it is actionable. It’s not a Porsche. It cannot be bought.

.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less