Neil Tambe

Let’s go.

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

"The Joy of Having Less"

I was have an e-mail chat with a few friends about this article, it's on a NYTimes.com blog. Two friends had this to say in response:

MS-
does a simpler life necessarily mean one alone or at a great distance from those one loves? is this a key ingredient or potentially complicating element?

i can find myself in a blissful thoreauvian state where i want to count beans and listen to nature. and then i can find myself feeling like an anne sexton poem where i want to fuse my bones to another person or series of person in order to feel alive.

JH-
I also have some criticism regarding the fact that not everyone's socioeconomic situations lend themselves to being able to up and move. And, I too am a person who needs to be surrounded by people that I know and love but at the same time I really enjoy solitude and independence. It's a balance. I do think that different types of people reading an essay like this can pull what they are inspired by into their own experience -- what better can an essay do than that?

Me-
I think you're knocking on the door of something interesting and controversial, here:

"I do think that different types of people reading an essay like this can pull what they are inspired by into their own experience -- what better can an essay do than that?"

Forgive me if I'm interpreting incorrectly, but I think you mean--perhaps implicitly--that people can kind of take things and their own experiences determines what makes them happy. That happiness is something determined by an individual or at an individual level. Different people like different things. Maybe you didn't mean this towards "what makes a happy life?" at all, or didn't mean it as strongly as I've put it...but I'll leave it that way to illustrate a contrasting viewpoint.

I think it's an open question: are people made happy by a similar menu of activities, occurrences, habits or behaviors or does the pursuit of happiness depend mostly on the individual? I'm not so sure that individual characteristics matter. Why? Because it seems like the "happy people" have many activities, occurrences, habits and behaviors in common...a few simple things seem to make them happy, like some of the following:

Have good friends
Have work that you enjoy or find meaningful
Show love and commitment to your family and have sex with your spouse, often.
Have proper rest and nutrition
Give back to your community
Learn
Exercise
Live a life without excess
Follow the golden rule

The list goes on, but not for very long. And I'd like to emphasize...these things are pretty darn simple, no? They're almost timeless, which in my mind makes them more applicable and believable.

But, I think there's an argument to be made for people discovering and finding what makes them happy. I'll let someone else make it if it pleases them. If not, we wasted too much time agonizing over majors and careers ;)
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