Sam Harris on Happiness

Question: What makes you happy?

Sam Harris:  Well it’s an elusive thing to get a hold of.  I think the absence of neurosis, the absence of fear, the absence of anxiety.  When you recognize what consciousness is like, when those states of mind have subsided, it seems to me intrinsically happy.  It’s intrinsically at ease.  It’s intrinsically peaceful, and at times even blissful.  It’s just the lack of complication. Just merely being aware of one’s self in the present moment, and not continually being in conversation with one’s self about the present moment and just thinking, thinking, thinking incessantly. 

When that can subside, either because you’re meditating, or because you’re enjoying yourself so much in sports.  Or you’re having sex.  I mean, any peak experience has this feature of having your attention really focused in a very uncomplicated way on your experience in the present.  And that state of mind is what I would call happiness. 

And all of the obstacles to being at rest in that state of mind, I think of as the obstacles to happiness.  And those are things like a neurotic self-absorption with how other people perceive you; or anxiety about the future; or regret about the thing you didn’t say yesterday.  Those are the ways/modes of thought that keep us from recognizing that it’s possible to be really at ease in the present, and happy before anything happens.  I mean, to have happiness that’s not contingent upon the next good thing that’s going to happen, but to just actually be at rest with what is happening right now.

Recorded on: July 4, 2007.

Sam Harris on the absence of neuroses.

The cost of world peace? It's much less than the price of war

The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Conflict and violence cost the world more than $14 trillion a year.
  • That's the equivalent of $5 a day for every person on the planet.
  • Research shows that peace brings prosperity, lower inflation and more jobs.
  • Just a 2% reduction in conflict would free up as much money as the global aid budget.
  • Report urges governments to improve peacefulness, especially amid COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

The evolution of modern rainforests began with the dinosaur-killing asteroid

The lush biodiversity of South America's rainforests is rooted in one of the most cataclysmic events that ever struck Earth.

meen_na via Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • One especially mysterious thing about the asteroid impact, which killed the dinosaurs, is how it transformed Earth's tropical rainforests.
  • A recent study analyzed ancient fossils collected in modern-day Colombia to determine how tropical rainforests changed after the bolide impact.
  • The results highlight how nature is able to recover from cataclysmic events, though it may take millions of years.
Keep reading Show less

Your body’s full of stuff you no longer need. Here's a list.

Evolution doesn't clean up after itself very well.

Image source: Decade3d-anatomy online via Shutterstock
Surprising Science
  • An evolutionary biologist got people swapping ideas about our lingering vestigia.
  • Basically, this is the stuff that served some evolutionary purpose at some point, but now is kind of, well, extra.
  • Here are the six traits that inaugurated the fun.
Keep reading Show less

New study determines how many mothers have lost a child by country

Global inequality takes many forms, including who has lost the most children

USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A first-of-its-kind study examines the number of mothers who have lost a child around the world.
  • The number is related to infant mortality rates in a country but is not identical to it.
  • The lack of information on the topic leaves a lot of room for future research.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast