20 Dec 5 great ideas (from the Gnostics) for more happiness
Check out yet another great, thought provoking article on happiness from the Huffington Post…
by Richard Koch
The most exciting philosophy-religion in the first and second centuries AD was Gnosticism. In Greek gnosis means knowledge. The Gnostics had secret knowledge that enabled them, they thought, to understand the world as it was. Basically they believed that the world was all screwed up, and it wasn't man's fault. The material world was a disaster. But there was another world, the world of the spirit, that men and women belonged to. We were strangers in a strange world, but we belonged in the light of heaven. If we gained the right esoteric knowledge, our spirits could live for ever.
Jesus may have been a Gnostic, and Saint Paul was definitely at least half a Gnostic. Many distinguished non-Christians philosophers were Gnostics too. I could write about Gnosticism for weeks on end, pausing only for food, sleep, exercise, and something more intimate. My next-but-one book will be about it (Gnosticism, not the intimate thing, you'll be relieved to know). But this is not a blog about that philosophy. Last week I outlined six concepts that can make us happy and useful. This week we'll look at another five.
The first of these is Knowledge
More precisely, how it can make you happy and useful. And the thing is, it is not so much gaining knowledge that does the trick, but more spreading and creating it.
We tend to think of knowledge as something rather technical and compartmentalized. Knowledge is what universities and professors do. Oh, and companies as well if they have scientists beavering away in their basements. Knowledge is worthy. Knowledge is boring. Knowledge is someone else's concern.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing is more calculated to stop us from enjoying life to the full. Knowledge is not what they do. Knowledge is what you do. Knowledge defines what it means to be human. Knowledge is what makes us beautiful like diamonds in the sky (not to coin a phrase).
What does knowledge mean? It means making sense of the universe for ourselves. It means advancing what it means to live. It means being unique, and passing on more than we were handed from everyone who went before us. We don't have to hand it on in books or videos or by being famous. We hand it on by living. Nobody is like me (thankfully), and nobody is like you. You have knowledge you pass on whether you want to or not. That knowledge is unique, because even if it comes from somebody else or from something you have heard or read, it is refracted through your experience and it carries the stamp of your authenticity. The knowledge may be good or bad, true or false. But it is not morally neutral. We are knowledge refractors and generators. The multiplier effect is enormous, through all the contacts we have in our live and the impact – unmeasured, unmeasurable, but massive – that we have.
The quality of the knowledge defines your impact and its moral effect. There are few things more depressing than passing on dud knowledge, or persuading someone of something you know isn't true. It may give a quick thrill, it may make you money, but it is corrosive, acidic, poison. Those who trade in poison get poisoned. But there are few things more satisfying than discovering something true and useful, and passing it on.
Generating and multiplying useful knowledge, knowledge that makes us happier and more useful, is the best thing anybody can do.
Finding Meaning in Life
Not everyone is lucky enough to make generating knowledge their profession. But everyone who is happy finds meaning in what they do (whether paid or unpaid).
The psychotherapist Victor Frankl found meaning in a series of Nazi concentration camps. For him, meaning was surviving the horror so that he could do something useful afterwards. His view was that work was pointless unless it gave meaning to one's life. When in the camps, he envisaged his life afterwards, he saw himself writing books and giving lectures – about meaning. His wife and all his other extended family members did not survive the Third Reich. Frankl did, living proof of his hypothesis.
A sense of purpose not only makes us happy and useful. It also makes it possible for us to survive and thrive…
…keep reading the full & original article HERE