Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Reason for Being

On the recommendation of Mr. RWorld I've been reading "Flow", by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ("sick-sent-mih-hal-ye"?) "Flow" defines the characteristics of optimal life experiences, experiences that make us happy and satisfied. My ultra-short summary, which in no way should excuse you from reading this fine book, is that almost any activity where we "lose ourselves" as we focus on doing something is the kind of activity that likely brings happiness and fulfillment.

Being somewhat of a perpetual motion machine, I have quite a few opportunities for "flow" experiences, experiences where I am fully caught up in the challenge of the task at hand - tasks such as hiking the Appalachian Trail, closing a set of financial books, or even writing this blog. Csikszentmihalyi's advice is to structure life's activities so as to maximize the amount of time spent in active "flow" rather than in passive, meaningless activities like watching sitcoms. It's excellent advice regarding how to achieve periods of happiness and pleasure, but it leaves me with a big question - whether having frequent periods of happiness is a sufficient reason for being or a way to achieve true fulfillment.

If this life is all there is, and when it's over my atoms go back to becoming just more stuff of the universe and my consciousness winks out never to wake again, then "flow" is the goal I must pursue if I want to make the most of it.

If there is more to life than what I can perceive, then the kinds of things I do to achieve "flow" may be more important than the happiness and pleasure I get from doing them.

As I continue with this book I'll be looking for clues about how Csikszentmihalyi addresses the quandary about whether to maximize on pleasure or maximize on spiritual values - or, whether one can do both simultaneously. Stay tuned...

4 comments:

Ron Davison said...

I'm glad that you're enjoying Flow (and your ultra-short summary seems, to me, on the mark).
In Evolving Self, Csikszentmihalyi deals with your very question. He basically says that a full and happy life has two dimensions: flow experiences and meaning. Meaning gives your daily activities a context, a connection to something bigger. More than just enjoying a task, you feel it somehow contributes to something bigger than you. You're obviously reading him thoughtfully, because you're already a book ahead.

Ron Davison said...

Oh, and the name? Chick-sent-me-hi.

Lifehiker said...

Chick-sent-me-he? They sure can't spell wherever he came from! But at least they can write.

seventh sister said...

Sounds like a wonderful book. I had not heard of it or of the author before.

As for the reason we are here, according to Abraham-Hicks, being happy is the biggest part of it.