Book Review: Happiness and Other Small Things of Absolute Importance by Haim Shapira, PhD

The Book

This book has quickly become one of my favorite books. In it, the author, Haim Shapira, renowned philosopher and game theorist, challenges a number of concepts that we generally take for granted and gives us a whole new perspective on them, while providing us with a fresh canvas to reconstruct our take on it.  Shapira, explains that life can take us on one of two divergent paths, the natural path and what he calls the path of grace. The natural path may be easier but is far less fulfilling. In this book he gives us some tips to revisualize what we may take for granted when on the natural path of life. 

The author quotes liberally yet within context from a range of humans spanning from Shakespeare to Spinoza and King Solomon to Julia Roberts as well as non-humans including Pooh and The Little Prince 

Takeaways

Some of the key takeaways I learned from the book include:

  • On Happiness: Happiness does not sustain itself indefinitely, there is no such thing as someone who is always in a state of happiness, unless they are crazy. Happiness can be a moment, a day, a week or even just a memory.

  • There are countless guides printed promoting a solution to achieve happiness. Shapira explains that the secret is that there isn’t  one way that will make everyone happy, everyone has their own unique thing that makes them happy. Moreover, many people in fact do not even know what makes them happy.

  • On doing nothing: Have you ever tried doing nothing? Thinking  about nothing? Have you tried doing nothing and not feeling guilty about it? You are not alone, but this may be the key to happiness. Shapira explains that Pooh was most happy and all he did was essentially nothing. The idea is not to do absolutely nothing, but to balance your busy life, with moments of self, just for you.  – I think if practiced correctly this can be incredibly powerful.

  • Anger: Quoting from Spinoza, Shapira explains that if you would get angry at someone and then forgive them 30 minutes later or 30 years later, it was wasted anger and you should’ve just forgiven to begin with. Anger is punishing yourself for the stupidity of others, just forgive them. 
  • Love: Love cannot have strings attached. It cannot be based on “because of” and “thanks to” but must include “in despite of” as well. 

Quotes I Appreciated

  • “If we had no faults of our own, we would not take so much pleasure in noticing those of others” – Francois de La Rochefoucauld
  • “When we talk to God, we’re praying. When God talks to us, we’re schizophrenic”
    Jane Wagner 
  • “Pessimism is usually an expression of intellectual laziness” – Colin Wilson


Overall Thoughts

As a final note, I feel this book would have been great just as a chapter on happiness. I felt strongly like the subsequent chapters, became a commentary of sorts on The Little Prince. Regardless, the lessons learned in this book, if taken seriously, will help you turn the page to look at life and our world completely differently.

Happiness and Other Small Things of Absolute Importance can be purchased at Amazon.com

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