The Muse that is Melancholy

Ah, now I have proof that my saturnine nature is something to celebrate.  Well, if I felt like celebrating…no matter, a recent books essay in the FT (here) highlights three books that tout the less-sunny side of life:

There are two good reasons to appreciate emotions other than happiness. The first is that… [b]y making happiness holy, we dismiss the overwhelming majority of human experience as nothing more than an also-ran.  The second is that dissatisfaction is the driver of human endeavour – and not just in the luxury goods industry.

I had already read a few reviews of Eric Wilson’s Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy,  which has moved onto my must read list.  Wilson’s view isn’t very comfortable for most Americans, what with the pursuit of happiness enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (the FT reviewer wrongly calls it the “right to happiness”).  I think I’ll look at the Baggini book as well (Complaint, book here, blog here, “Complaint Test” here), for he looks at grumbling that is unproductive or unsatisfying:

Complaining may be crucial to our humanity, but misguided gripes – about things that either cannot or should not be changed – just get us down all the more. [The most egregious are people who] move about in search of the best schools and jobs, then complain at the loss of traditional community; travel to the top of Machu Picchu in Peru only to complain about all the tourists; and expect other cultures to be authentic while patronising the local Starbucks “like a libertine who wants his innumerable conquests to be chaste virgins”.

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5 Responses

  1. The result of 2007 THES-QS World University Rankings (Times Higher Education Supplement-Quacquarelli Symbols) has been reported recently on local news programs. It has been accounted that University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University were the only Philippine universities to be included in the Top 500 list. Undeniably, the result of this ranking (and other similar rankings) will conversely reinforce the full blown superiority complex of students and faculty of these institutions. This will be an additional reason for them to maintain their self-righteous delusion that they are far more academically-competent than those who are outside their academic bubble.

    Lest, I would sound unreasonably disagreeable and defiant about school rankings because my alma mater, New Era University, has not been hailed as one of the top schools (locally or globally), I am inclined to say that such rankings are utterly aimless and nonsensical in nature. These rankings are winnowed out from surveys and are far from being objective. The quality of education, which these rankings attempt to measure, is immeasurable. This leads people behind these rankings to create self-imposed criteria. These criteria, along with its results, will conversely vary from one study (or survey) to another, from one period of time to another. These variations and other subjective factors are poor determinants of who should the top schools be. This is then the central reason why I describe school rankings to be pointless and aimless. To put it bluntly, these rankings are being disclosed for the sheer glorification of certain institutions.

    To a large extent, school rankings could be a potential antecedent for school bashing. Institutions, regardless of their perceived academic superiority, were established to promote learning. If we continue to be fanatics of school rankings, this would just create a broader gap between the so-caled top schools and the lesser-fancied schools. This gap would mean a monopoly of quality education, which should not be the case. I am a firm believer that knowledge is universal. And the so-called quality education largely depends on the learner himself.

    I am from New Era University. I am not from any of those top schools, but I have learned what I’m supposed to learn.

  2. Hi Den,
    Thanks for your comment…I hear what you’re saying, but the aura of a strong school brand doesn’t last for long. Performance is what counts in the long run.

    You have, however, certainly caught the spirit of the post!

    Best,
    Paul

  3. […] with our lot is one of the drivers of personal achievement (hey, someone blogged on that here).  And Lord knows, I didn’t mind the better title, prestige, and money that came with most […]

  4. […] emotions that fuel his drive for success and acclaim, which I touched on earlier in my post “The Muse that is Melancholy“.  As that post notes, however, that doesn’t mean one will be happy.  And Lord knows […]

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