The Enlightenment II: A New Way Forward

The Enlightenment was an era (around the 17th/18th century) that changed people’s trust from authority to science and reasoning. That was revolutionary for the time. But while we do rely much more on reasoning than the dictates of a King or ruler to tell us what is right or wrong, in general we lack self awareness that keeps us from being a truly enlightened people.

Mistaking Pleasure and Happiness

Fundamental to our human condition is that we routinely mistake pleasure for happiness and this leads us to all sorts of problems. Nothing wrong with pleasure but often times when we mistake it for happiness, it may actually detract from happiness. Think about eating ice cream (the example from my book). That’s pleasurable. But beyond a certain point, you might feel guilty and thus unhappy even while you can’t stop yourself because of the pleasure. Maybe you’re not one to feel guilty about eating ice cream. And yet, over time, you might develop chronic diseases (on account of eating too much processed foods) which limit your health and then you really do feel unhappy. The point is that pleasure and happiness are not the same and in mistaking pleasure for happiness, we may and often do make ourselves less happy.

What Defines Mindless Consumerism

To mindlessly consume then means to spend money purchasing goods and services (usually in pursuit of pleasures) that undermines our health, our well-being and ultimately our happiness. Thus we have, in comparison to our Hunter-gatherer ancestors, isolated ourselves, engineered out exercise, live in artificial environments, and consume increasingly processed highly pleasurable “foods”. All of which makes us less healthy and thus less happy. That is not to say that we have not made real progress but we could have taken all of the good without the bad.

Wise Humans

We call ourselves Homo sapiens or wise humans. But what wisdom is there in undermining our own health and wellbeing in order to increase productivity/GDP or for a financial benefit? What is the financial benefit for if not to make us happy?

Neither Homo erectus, Homo habilis, Homo neanderthalis or for that matter any other wild animal undermined their own wellbeing like we sapiens have. But we are designated the wise ones? Lonelier, sicker, and more fragile that’s where our “wisdom” has led us over the years.

But I do believe the potential is there. I do believe that one day we can live up to our self appointed species name and truly become wise.

Enlightenment Part II

The change we need is about on the order of the Enlightenment era of the 17-18th centuries. It requires societal level change. It would take millions of people to understand the predicament we are facing – to recognize that we are on the wrong track and that we must change course. It is daunting to think and yet we know it is possible. History is full of large scale changes.


Happier. Healthier. Wealthier... Video Series

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