Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pursuing happiness


To my surprise, I found myself agreeing with a recent New York Times Op-Ed piece that the President of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur C. Brooks, wrote. In Brooks' memorable phrasing, "Love people, use things" results in greater happiness than does "Love things, use people." (Arthur C. Brooks, "Love People, Not Pleasure," New York Times, July 18, 2014)

Brooks, incidentally, argues for loving people and using things as the path most likely to produce happiness. He develops his argument using the musings of Abd al Rahman III, a 10th century emir and caliph in Spain, absolute ruler of his kingdom. Rahman exemplifies the person who loved things and used people; by his own count, he could only identify 14 days of happiness in his life.

I personally want (and, thankfully, have enjoyed) much more happiness than Rahman had. Loving people and using things – a philosophy not coincidentally congruent with all of the world's great religions – offers a much more promising path to happiness.

Which of those aphorisms – "Love people, use things" or "Love things, use people" best describes your philosophy? Which most accurately describes how you live? Which is correct, that is, which path will you seek to follow if you wish to live abundantly, maximizing your happiness?

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