Saturday, June 20, 2015

Saturdays in the Garden: Meaningfulness VS. Happiness


It was a good week in the outdoors despite dire weather warnings.  I spent three days hiking around remnant prairies in the Loess Hills of Western Iowa.  It is a truly spectacular landscape, Iowa style; i.e. it may not be as immediately awe-inspiring as the Rockies or the ocean but there is much beauty there nonetheless.  It's a good reminder to find and appreciate the beauty wherever you happen to be.  It will undoubtedly be there and it makes life better.

My travel companions:)
My office  -not bad.  Not bad at all.

The garden has continued to develop and be awesome though saying that makes me nervous like I have undoubtedly jinxed myself.  All is not perfect in gardenland - the tomatoes are behind and the peppers are putting on blooms even though they are undersized - besides that though....  The green beans have started putting on flowers so should have edible beans in a week or so.  The Sugar Snap peas are producing prolifically.  When I got home around 8:30 Friday night from my travels, which required eating road food and granola bars for three days, it was like manna from heaven to pull off some sugar snaps and gobble them down.  This is the why gardening is worth it.


I also encountered a little inspiration this week.  One of the prairies on which we're working is on private land and surrounds the owner's house.  Thankfully this is a kindred spirit who loves the prairie.  They also have a vegetable and herb garden that made me covetous.  Forty-one 8' X 4' X 2' raised beds spaced with wide aisles that are a riot of milkweeds and volunteer herbs and native plants.  It was messy and glorious.  Messy is definitely my style:0).  Some day when I have more land and have miraculously acquired carpentry skills...


Last week I encountered this article about the pursuit of a meaningful vs. a happy life.  It has dominated my thoughts all week and I think it may be one of those life changing ideas for me.  The contemplation of these two things, meaningfulness and happiness, is not a new activity for my over-thinking brain but I am not sure I had ever looked at these concept from the angle presented in the article.  That they are sometimes mutually exclusive and that happiness should not, in fact, be the ultimate goal in life.  Happiness is an emotion that is fleeting while meaningfulness provides something a little more substantive and satisfying.  The concept that was presented which most impacted me was the idea that living a meaningful life does not mean you will be happy and may in fact include a fair amount of stress and anxiety.  The article quotes a study that suggested that parents are frequently happier watching television then they are caring for their children:
Having children, for example, is associated with the meaningful life and requires self-sacrifice, but it has been famously associated with low happiness among parents, including the ones in this study. In fact, according to Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, research shows that parents are less happy interacting with their children than they are exercising, eating, and watching television.
The article also seems to suggest that the pursuit of happiness can actually be the pursuit of selfishness.

This is an idea I'm sure could be refuted.  Answering the questions about the best way to live one's life is almost always going to be at least somewhat subjective but this different viewpoint about the difference between these two concepts has really resonated with me and been the cause of a lot of thinking.

For 2-3 years now I have really struggled with my job because it is the source of a LOT of stress and anxiety for me on many different levels.  Since I have always thought of these things as categorically bad to have in one's life and because I have always thought that the ultimate goal in life is happiness, I have continually questioned whether I am in the right place, doing the right things.  Thinking about things from the perspective of meaningfulness as the ultimate goal and what that entails, really changes the whole ball game for me.  I am very lucky to have a career and job whose mission I feel is to make the world a better place for all living creatures and to encourage harmony with and respect to all.  It's a higher calling for me and I do believe my position is one where I can make a difference.  Not change the world by any stretch of the imagination but effect a positive change in my little corner of garden.  It brings with it a certain amount of overwork, stress, anxiety and heartache and the way I read the above article, it means that actually that's okay and that it can be an indication that I am doing the right thing.  Whoa.  It is a concept I think I will continue to read more about and think on but it has already impacted how I dealt with this past week which was very busy and stressful.  Instead of railing against it, I accepted and even embraced those things as being part of the package of doing something I believe in.

So that got a LOT longer then I was thinking it would be. I apologize for getting all philosophical and personal on you but the idea had such a profound effect on me I wanted to share it and also see if you all had any thoughts on this idea of demoting the pursuit of happiness and aiming for meaningfulness instead.   Is this something you were already very aware of and have embraced?  Is it a new idea to you?  Do you think it has some truth in it or do you think it is faulty or overly simplified?  Basically I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Now onto the much shallower things that give me many little moments of happiness:0).

My Longmire obsession is still going strong and I am just starting my third re-watch.  It's become a comfort watch for me that allows me to zone out or work on other things and I have actually picked up on new things and additional character nuances with each re-watch which is a good indication of its quality.


I'm in a bit of a weird reading spot; a borderline slump if you will.  It's primarily in my audio book reading  - after finishing Shadow Scale in the car and Lonesome Dove on my Ipod I can't settle on anything that really interests me.  I started listening to Fairest by Marissa Meyer but don't think I will finish it.  It's really well done but almost too well done as I got stuck during a scene where a teenaged emotionally selfish and immature Levana, who also has trouble separating fantasy and reality, is forcing herself on the object of her affection right after his wife has died.  This emotional tone deafness is something I have a really hard time reading or watching particularly if it's a character I've developed some sympathy with.  I turned it off in the middle of the scene and don't think I can/will go back.  I also stopped (though plan to go back to) The Neverending Story by Michael Ende because it just wasn't capturing my interest in the moment.

Finished this week:

- Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman: I predict this one will be hard to review.  I didn't love it as much as Seraphina but it included some things I really loved and appreciated.
- Murder on Gramercy Park by Victoria Thompson:  Book 3 in the Gaslight Mystery series that focuses on a turn of the 20th century midwife and police detective in New York.
- Nimona by  Noelle Stevenson:  I learned about this graphic novel from the Reading the End podcast and it was in fact really lovely. 

Currently Reading:

- Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe: I haven't picked this one up in a couple weeks.  Good thing its not the type of book that will be hard to follow if it takes me a while to pick it up again.
- The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson: This is the first book in the Walter Longmire series of mysteries on which the show is based.  I told you I was obsessed!
- 10% Happier by Dan Harris: I just started this one on audio this morning because I own it and recently a friend said she really liked it.  So far it's engaging enough.  It is more of a memoir then I was expecting which is not a bad thing. It also has the longest subtitle ever which I did not include. Sorry.


Obviously, work is taking all my energies these days so posting has been very slim.  I did start a review of Lonesome Dove but it is a book that I loved an insane amount and therefore I am taking my time with the review which will likely still not do it justice.

SUNDAY: TV Review: Longmire Another thing that I am loving and that my post doesn't really capture but oh well.  It's up there.


This week will be a little more normal....

SUNDAY: Review of Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
THURSDAY:  The Tough Traveling meme is highlighting Fathers in Fantasy land!  Learn more and check out last weeks topic (People on Boats) over on Fantasy Review Barn.

No comments:

Post a Comment