Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Happiness and Other Small Things of Absolute Importance by Haim Shapira

Shapira was born in Vilnius, Lithuania in 1962 and immigrated to Israel in 1977.Haim Shapira holds two PhD's (Theorethical Mathematics and Science Education) , is one of Israel's most popular and in-demand lecturers, an author of seven best-selling books, a pianist and an avid collector of anything beautiful. He teaches mathematics, psychology, philosophy and literature.
What is your happiest moment? How can you know it? Do we waste time or does time waste us? Are questions about meaning truly meaningful? What's really important? How do our emotions, our desires, our imagination and our understanding of our ever changing relationship with meaning help us to define and understand what happiness really means and what really matters. Drawing on literary and philosophical sources ranging from Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh and The Little Prince to Descartes and Nietzche, Haim Shapira invites us to challenge our perspectives on happiness and provides us with alternative ways we may view what is important. As Haim concludes it is the spaces in between the possible paths that we might take, where we are able to find a place of grace that the important things that matter to us will light our way. The choice is ours.
Lately, I have lost grasp of my life. The earth has shifted from beneath my feet and I have reached a stage where I need all the guidance I can get.I have always been the person with the goal, the plan to get there an the tools to reach it, but lately this is not the case.  I have become more self reflecting, trying to re-evaluate my life, my value system... my purpose. And somewhere on the way I got into reading literature that reflects my condition. Shapira was right there staring at my from a shelf, and I knew I need to read it, so that I can progress on my journey forward.
I read it a couple of times ever since I got it, and I believe I will need a couple of more re-reads until I have extracted every last drop of wisdom from it. Haim Shapira has a wonderfully refreshing voice:"Leafing through one of these how-to guides, I came upon an amazingly wise piece of advice: 'Rise every morning with a big smile and in an excellent mood.' How lucky I was that the authors chose to share their insight with me. Before I stumbled upon this wonderful idea, I used to think that I should rise every morning with a sharp pain in my left kidney, feeling deeply depressed. Now I knew I'd been wrong all along". 
He has this little sarcastic attitude towards life that I appreciate so much. In his book he offers us musings on the idea of happiness as it has been understood by many different people, quoting from various sources (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "Le Petit Prince" being the one he references most frequently) and from his own work and experience as well as research (the section on women's happiest moments versus men's will burst many a male ego). It offers much food for thought, but in the end happiness is up to us and to be attained in our own individual way rather than achievable by a one-size-fits-all formula. And I absolutely love it! 
This is a read that revisits childhood favourites and more, only to bring you a mischievous and serious retrospect of how our understanding of happiness has been entirely moulded by society. Moulded so that it will never fit... We are doomed to become Sisyphuses of our own universe, never being able to reach the end of the climb, crumbling from beneath the weight of not being able to fit into somebody's idea of complete, wholesome, happy. 
Every page surprises you with the comprehensive review of the subject presented in a conversational and down to earth manner. It is witty, engaging, humane and mostly honest. I wish it was written a decade earlier, so I can read it during my teens and prevent my misconceptions from ever rising. Definitely recommend it!5FOXGIVEN