The March 2022 edition of The Atlantic features of trio of articles that explore different angles of “How to Find Happiness.” After two plus years of pandemic, the issue is welcome, since its topic appears to be in such short supply.
Arthur C. Brooks, Harvard Professor and generally contented soul, covers the usual happiness bases in “The Satisfaction Trap.” Money cannot buy happiness. Success is fleeting. You can’t get no satisfaction. The half-life of desire satisfaction is short, and escalating desire floods the void. There’s a Buddhist sensibility, espousing the way out of the trap through shedding desires, seeking contentment, tamping judgment, forsaking comparison. The article’s a bit odd in the end, as Mr. Brooks admits to fervent Catholicism, a religion that thrives on keeping people in sin and shame by external judgement. Still, in a world that constantly pushes us to want more, it’s always useful to revisit the reality that more actually delivers less.
Jennifer Senior’s article, “It’s Your Friends Who Break Your Heart,” is an intriguing exploration of long-term friendship, why it’s so important, and how devastating it can be when it ends. We have no customs, no rituals, for friendships that whither or snap. Perhaps we should. Most of the relationships Ms. Senior chronicles are female-female. I was struck by how completely different they were, both in health and in demise, from mine own. I’m not a particularly good long-term friend. I go years without connecting with someone important to me. Yet, when we do reconnect, I demand nothing beyond picking up where we left. No explanation or continuity required. Even if the falloff is triggered by a specific event, I’m disinclined to wade through the details. Rather, when wounded, I withdraw; or they do. I let time heal. I never ‘block’ anyone, or disown what we’ve had. I simply hang back until moved to reconnect. Considering my lassez-faire manner of friendship, I was fascinated by Ms. Senior’s descriptions of women who engage in rigorous accounting, text exchanges, even therapy.
Perhaps the most ambitious article was Olga Khazan’s “My Personality Transplant.” Once I suspended disbelief that this witty, insightful, attractive woman, with a steady boyfriend and a plum spot as a staff writer for The Atlantic, possessed an acid personality, I appreciated her journey to be…