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Life, Death, and Other Inconvenient Truths


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An expert on happiness presents an engaging and inspiring guide to making sense of the human condition via brief essays on concepts from action, to love, to thought, to youth.

Table of Contents

Preface xiii
Executive Summary: A Rhyming Lore of the Human Condition xvii
1 Action 1
The native hue of resolution. The pale cast of thought. And lose the name of action.
2 Ambition 5
Pelf and place. A small goat.
3 Anxiety 9
Possession. What you know you don't know can hurt you. What-me worry? Yes.
4 Beauty 13
The imminence of a revelation. Evolutionary bait and switch. Between the world and a grain of sand. The pathos of things. The seven sad senses of beauty.
5 Children (The Raising of) 19
Be good. Plan B. Other ways to be.
6 Complexity 23
The dark forest. A spotlight shines on an enigma. Back in the forest.
7 Consciousness 29
The Tempest in a teapot. The insubstantial pageant. We are such stuff as dreams are made on. The splendor and the misery.
8 Death 35
The tragic sense of life. The Switch. Still The Switch. Only in silence the word.
9 Empathy 41
To em or not to em. Us and Them. From ordinary household objects.
10 Emptiness 45
Einstein meets the Buddha. Enter Borges.
11 Evolution 49
The mountains and the monsoon. A universal history of iniquity. Definitely maybe.
12 Existence 55
A bit of Talmudic existentialism. I think, therefore I ache. The mindfulness ruse.
13 Fear 59
Where the wild things are. True grit. We have seen the enemy.
14 Free Will 63
Complications. Misapprehension. Chance. Necessity. Implications.
15 Happiness 69
Machineries of joy and sorrow. Happiness fast and slow. The dark side of happiness.
16 Home 73
No home. No homeland. No rest. No end.
17 Language 79
The tentacles of intent. The Ring of Fire. Gaming the Game. Big Two-Hearted River.
18 Love 87
What a lovely way to burn. Che cosa e amor. Tuqburni.
19 Mathematics 93
Unreasonable effectiveness. Ineffectiveness of reason. But time and chance happeneth to them all.
20 Memory 99
The waters of Naihe. Some work of noble note. Across the universe. The Time Warp again. All memory and fate.
21 Morality 105
Silentio Dei. On the genealogy of morals. Human, all too human. Away from Omelas.
22 Old Age 113
Comfortably numb. Catabasis. Cassandra's golden years. Volver.
23 Parents (The Liberation from) 119
Be good. Be you. Be back.
24 Perception 123
Use your illusion. Umwelten. How things really are.
25 Politics 129
The tools of the trade. A shining city on the hill. Into the catacombs. News from Nowhere.
26 Power 137
The great chains of being. The invisible hand. Beyond Freedom and Dignity.
27 Poverty 141
Cui bono? Double double jeopardy. UBI bene?
28 Regret 145
Nothing, really? The ledger. Fools and heroes.
29 Religion 149
A rose by any other name. Hanging onto the tiger's tail. The heart of a heartless world. Pride and prejudice.
30 Science 155
Truth to power. The two towers. Power-proofing science.
31 Stupidity 159
Human, all too human. An eclipse of common sense. The wages of folly. Worse than a fool. The stupidity of crowds. The unholy trinity.
32 Suffering 165
Mindsets. Varieties. Mechanisms. Options.
33 Technology 171
Comfortably numb. The fiery sword. Cura te ipsum.
34 Thinking 175
Transitional. Treacherous. Transgressional.
35 Time 181
The sandstorm. Faster, slower, true. The tyranny of now. The arrow of time.
36 Truth 185
A melancholy pearl. Ministries of information. Into the well.
37 War 189
A room with a view. After Babel. Blowing in the wind.
38 Youth 195
Another difficult dilemma. Silver spoon or not. Choice and chance. Janus introversus.
Afterword 201
Just dropped in (to see what condition my condition was in)
Acknowledgments 203
Notes 205
References 271
Index 311

About the Author

Shimon Edelman is Professor of Psychology at Cornell University. He is the author of Computing the Mind, The Happiness of Pursuit, and other books.


"This work will be welcomed by any reader interested in the complexity of the human condition, and will especially appeal to students of the arts and literature, psychology, and ethics."

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