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Against Happiness: Are We Trying Too Hard to Be Happy?

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Jon Hansen

Jon Hansen

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Winston Churchill is someone for whom I had and have a great deal of admiration. From the determined "Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense," to "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts," I am to this day moved by the heart and drive of a person who like all of us, is a fallible human being. Yet it is in this very fallibility, and the challenges of his "black dog" that author and psychiatrist Anthony Storr wrote of Churchill: "Had he been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the nation. In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgment might well have concluded that we were finished." In his new book “Against Happiness,” Wake Forest University professor Eric Wilson asks whether we are trying too hard to be happy, and whether over medication is draining our culture of the melancholy that historically gave rise to many great artists and writers. Does the quest to numb ourselves to the point of blissful ambivalence and avoid the reality of the full range of our emotions somehow deprive us of the very drive that propels us to overcome and ultimately attain real happiness? I can only shudder to think where we would be if Winston Churchill had made the decision to mute his "divine discontent." To explore this controversial and thought-provoking subject, I am pleased to welcome Eric Wilson to today's show.

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