Finding Happiness: From Lizard Lessons to Your Own “Newspaper”

The leader of my wife’s workplace has flourished since her incorporation into the company. She holds a lofty position at a tender age, enjoys matrimonial bliss, and her progeny attend esteemed educational institutions. Following recent organizational adjustments, interpersonal dynamics have grown strained. Lately, she has been perturbed by trifling matters. Lost in contemplation for a spell, he plummeted from the towering edifice, departing this world—a grievous tragedy. The rapid pace of contemporary life, coupled with heightened work demands and psychological strain, renders depression not an anomaly. According to the World Health Organization, depression presently ranks fifth among the foremost human afflictions, afflicting over 300 million individuals worldwide. It is anticipated that depression will emerge as a formidable health menace, trailing only cardiovascular and cerebrovascular ailments in prominence.

Jaynes, a Princeton University psychology professor, once harbored an Amazonian lizard as a companion. Initially, the professor endeavored to appease it with a diet mirroring its natural fare of insects, snails, and earthworms. Yet, the creature, filled with pride, spurned all offerings and soon wasted away. One fateful day, the professor partook of a ham sandwich for lunch, breaking off a morsel for the lizard in a bid of desperation. Unmoved as ever, the creature ignored the offering, compelling the professor to resume his repast whilst perusing the newspaper. As fate would have it, a discarded section of the paper fell upon the ham, catching the lizard’s attention. With alacrity, it tore through the paper, seized the ham, and commenced its repast.

Evidently, lizards necessitate a stealthy approach, tearing food into manageable portions prior to consumption—a survival trait honed through evolution.

Two millennia and a half ago, Aristotle posed the question: “What constitutes a felicitous existence?” His inquiry, spanning epochs, continues to perplex. Even Aristotle’s own response—living in accordance with ethical principles—remains incomplete, as anticipated. Millennia later, Seligman, president of the American Psychological Association, proffered a novel insight: “Happiness lies in the discovery and utilization of one’s strengths.”

As creatures of instinct, lizards harbor no aspirations for self-improvement or ostentatious displays of wealth. Their contentment stems from fortuitous encounters. Yet, within Professor Jaynes’ abode, the lizard remained indifferent to the delectable offerings before it. Why? For want of a newspaper, an instrument granting strategic advantage.

Each of us possesses unique strengths, and true happiness hinges on our ability to unearth and nurture them. Unlike lizards, humanity boasts a universal advantage—we possess the faculty of proactive thought, enabling positive self-reinforcement, emotional solace, and resilience against despair, under the purview of psychological intervention.

Proactive reflection necessitates a measure of fortitude, akin to the courage of self-redemption. Rabindranath Tagore opined in “The Birds”: “I believe that amidst the stars, there shines one guiding my soul through the unknown depths.” These prophetic words may well serve as the “newspaper” modern society seeks.

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