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Is the Purpose of Life the Pursuit of Happiness?

Pursuit of happiness quote from the book on a desert background.

“The purpose of our existence is to seek happiness.”

The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

Ahh…the old “pursuit of happiness” thing!

One thing I noticed here and in other works is that they never say that the purpose is to BE happy but to SEEK happiness. If I’m unhappy that doesn’t mean I’ve failed to fulfill my purpose in life, it merely means I need to keep working.

Where words came from is fascinating to me, so the first thing I did was look up the word “happy.” Word Origin of Happy says the word happy originally meant “lucky” or “wise.” How clever is that? What if I spent my life looking for luck and wisdom? Seems like a good use of time, a decent existence, doesn’t it?

I think that’s exactly what I do, and why I’m a generally happy person. Some may disagree with that statement. They may say, “Michelle, you complain a lot and you tend to throw temper tantrums and get unreasonably angry about silly things. You’re not happy.” But I beg to differ. Ask those that live with me or are around me often. I’ll admit that I am an emotional creature. I wear my heart out on my sleeve and tend to get it bruised up, but I also tend to forgive and forget…mostly.

Happiness has eluded me in the past, and recently it’s felt like an annoying little butterfly just out of my reach. I stalk it in the shadows, pounce down on it, pull my hands up thinking I’ve caught it, only to find…nothing. But I keep looking. I open another book, find another friend, or start another conversation. I’m never disappointed for long. I thank my squirrel brain for that.

What kind of a person is it nicer to be around? What kind of a person is more likely to do something nice for others, work hard at something, and share with the world around them? A happy person or an unhappy person?

I think it’s the happy person, the lucky and wise person. That’s why it makes sense to me to make the pursuit of happiness my life’s goal. So far, I feel like I’m doing nice job of it.

It may look like I have the world from your perspective, but I don’t have everything I want. No one does. Things have not always gone the way I wanted them to. I’ve been sorely disappointed and let down. I’ve made terrible mistakes that have cost me some relationships as well as money and some freedom. The pursuit of happiness, the seeking of that which may make you happy, isn’t about getting what you want, or what you think you want, but accepting what is.

And happiness doesn’t always mean pleasure seeking. Things that are pleasurable don’t always lead to happiness. Wisdom is learning to navigate through those traps. It may bring me great pleasure to spend all my money on books, but I’ll be unhappy when my husband can’t pay the mortgage. It may bring me great pleasure to punch that guy right in the nose, but I’ll be unhappy when I’m in jail for assault.

No, BEING happy isn’t the goal. It can’t be. But SEEKING happiness? That’s attainable!


You can find The Art of Happiness at Thriftbooks. If you read it, let me know what you think!

I posted about this book when I started reading it back in December, New Read: The Art of Happiness

If you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it on my Autobibliography page!

Finding Balance in the Study of Eastern and Western Philosophy

Eastern and Western philosophy quote from the book on a desert background.
The first of many gems I found in this book, even though it wasn’t what I expected.

“Underlying all Western modes of analysis is a very strong rationalistic tendency – an assumption that everything can be accounted for.”

The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

I can’t be the only one that is thinking that the study of Eastern and Western Philosophy may be a way to bring the chaos of modern civilization into balance. If each of us could spend time considering ways to live more peacefully, the mood of even social media may change for the better.

When I read the quote above, I imagined a bean-counter sitting at his desk picking apart a human consciousness. This is related to this. That is caused by that. Hmm… You can see the animation play out, can’t you?

Some would read this and think, “Yeah, those dumb Western thinkers! Always thinking they can reason their way out of everything, control the outcomes. Not everything has a rational explanation!”

And not everything can, or should be, controlled.

Modern thinking has supposedly thrown out superstitious and spiritual “woo-woo” reasons for what happens in the physical world. In my opinion, it seems we’ve simply replaced it with something far more dangerous, the worship of the state. Voting seems to give government supernatural abilities that are unlimited in scope. We need not worry, think, or reason for ourselves because every few years we vote for someone else to do that for us.

But that’s not what this book is about, or what I came to talk about. It’s just what leaked through my brain as I thought about the quote.

There’s a lot of good that has come from that bend toward rational accountability in Western thought. Christian teaching tells us that God gave us the earth to take care of.

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 

Matthew 6:26

Taking the reins of life on earth is a big job for humanity. It’s a huge responsibility. The forces of life on earth are great. What if we could control and guide them? What could we accomplish if we drove them instead of rode them?

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible…enter chaos, right? That’s where Eastern thought, and Buddhism specifically, is helping me personally. Could it help all of humanity, like in a balance way, two halves of a whole finally coming together in the modern era?

I think so. Reading this book has only confirmed some of my suspicions about Eastern and Western philosophy and now I want to know more. My Western culture has taught me ambition, responsibility, and reasoning. Can Eastern culture teach me acceptance and peace about the chaos outside?

I’ve been curious about Buddhism and Eastern thought for years and I think it’s about time I spent some serious study in it. I’m still looking for good sources, so if you know of any you’ve had experience with, let me know in the comments.

You can find The Art of Happiness at Thriftbooks. If you read it, let me know what you think!

I posted about this book when I started reading it back in December, New Read: The Art of Happiness

If you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it on my Autobibliography page!

“The Secret Life of Dust” by Hannah Holmes

"The Secret Life of Dust" book cover on the desert floor.
“The Secret Life of Dust” by Hannah Holmes, surround by…dust!

“The Secret Life of Dust” called to me from the pile every time I walked by. I told it I would read it soon, it was next in line, be patient. As soon as I finished my last book, I picked it up and put it on my desk. I could tell right away it was happy to be there.

What do I know about this book? Nothing really. I liked the cover. I assumed it was about science when  I picked it up out of my friend’s donated library.

“From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things”

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

I sat down to add it to my reading journal and couldn’t decide what genre to put it under. Non-fiction, sure. But is it science, history, sociology? I looked it up on Goodreads but that didn’t help.

Goodreads genre list.
Not Helpful

I love categories and counting things. How am I supposed to mark this?! I guess it’s just another lesson in not putting things in boxes. Life doesn’t work that way, I’m told. I’m reminded of it every time I try to put things in order, no matter what part of my life I’m working on.

Kitchen things are used in the garage. Education comes from everywhere. Family can be found in anyone. And meaning can be made of clouds…which are only there because of dust.

You see what my brain did there? Pretty clever, I think.

I started reading first thing this morning. And the first chapters are about space dust. Now I want desperately for someone to go out there “Star Trek” style and confirm humanity’s observations. What’s out there? Who’s out there? Is there another planet full of beings looking out in our direction and wondering, “What is that strange blue/green glow?”

Have you read this book? Want to read along with me? Go get The Secret Life of Dust and leave me a comment about your thoughts on it. I can’t wait to hear from you!


If you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it on my Autobibliography page!

“The Noticer” by Andy Andrews

The Noticer book cover on a desert background.

This doesn’t happen very often, but I didn’t know what I was going to read when I picked up “The Noticer” by Andy Andrews off the shelf. It’s a perfect case of judging a book by its cover!

Remember when I said I was going to try reading one book at a time for a while? You don’t? Well, I did. Maybe it was in my monthly newsletter (which you can go sign up for at my Autobibilography page). Anyway…it’s not working already.

I like a lot of wonderful non-fiction books but I’m not always in the right frame of mind to read them. Sometimes they are a more difficult read and I need to be fresh minded, or it needs to be very quiet in the house for me to focus. In the afternoon, that’s not likely to be the case, but I do occasionally have some time to grab a cup of tea and read a bit. So, what can I do?

Have a second, easier book on hand! That book is typically a novel. Fiction is imagination work and not as hard for me to read. I can jump in anytime, pick up where I left off, and enjoy the journey. That’s not so much true with non-fiction.

Backstory…just a little. Last month, you may remember, a reader friend of mine had to move out of state suddenly and gifted her entire library for me to redistribute. I know…don’t be jealous. Needless to say, I kept a few, ok several, maybe ninety, books for myself. What’s happening with the rest of them? That’s another post!

So yesterday morning, I walked over to that glorious stack of gifted books looking for a nice easy novel to read with my third cup of coffee and breakfast cookie (don’t judge me). I found this cute little book and figured it would be an inspiring read.

It has the quote “This is the best book I have ever read in my life” on the cover. How can I go wrong?

I took it to my spot on the couch and began adding the title to my reading journal.

Title. “The Noticer”
Author. Andy Andrews
Year published. 2009
Genre. I wrote fiction but then flipped the book over and found “self-help” in the corner. Groan. That’s not what I was looking for, but I was already in my spot with coffee and I’d already added it in my cute new book. I’m already too invested. I may as well keep going.

I’m hooked. It’s adorable! Have you read it? If you have, give me a comment about what you thought. If you’d like to read along with me, go buy “The Noticer” on Amazon. Of course, buying the book through the link puts some change in my pocket but doesn’t add to your cost of the book!

Reality is Not The Curated Fragments of Life in the Media

Curated fragments of life quote with book cover background.

“Now instead of following their favorite celebrity on social media, ONI users could become their favorite celebrity for a few minutes each day. Exist inside their skin. Live short, heavily curated fragments of far more glamourous lives.”

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

Let’s put an emphasis on “heavily curated fragments” and talk about that for a few paragraphs, shall we?

In the “Earl,” that’s what they call IRL (in real life) in the book, we all project a curated image as we move through our daily lives. At work, at the grocery store, at the playground with other parents, etc., people mostly see what we want them to see. We don’t walk around with our life story on our sleeves for everyone to see.

The more time we spend with people though, the more they know us and our secrets, the things we try to keep from the public eye. We don’t hide them for nefarious reasons. We’re not hidden criminals…I hope…mostly. We all have a public and a private image.

Inevitably, those small quirks that make us unique, or those bad habits we try to hide from public view, slip out into the Earl from time to time. We react badly to an offense. Our children thrash our last nerve. A rough day at the office turns into road rage on the way home, the middle finger goes up, harsh words are spoken. It happens. But we quickly return to our persona.

At home, with our closest family and friends, we are a different person. Our guard goes down and we are more ourselves.

On the internet, social media especially? How much more so? How many different personalities do have? How many “heavily curated fragments” of ourselves do we present? It depends on the individual. Celebrities, politicians, people that depend on public favor, I’m sure have a lot of work to do maintaining an image that doesn’t do them damage.

You can’t please everyone all the time.

Humans are flawed. We make mistakes. We ruin things and create messes with people. That doesn’t make us bad people, but when you’re trying to sell an image…well…it’s best to curate one that is appetizing to as many people as possible.

But what about us “normal”? I’m not selling an image to my family and friends. Or am I? This blog is one curated image that I project to the public. It’s certainly not all of me on the page. There are other sides of me that are my private thoughts, though it may seem like you’re getting all of me.

And escaping from dull reality into fiction isn’t a new thing. We used to tell stories, then read books, listen to the radio, watch movies, and then tv.  We have always wondered what someone else’s life would be like and assumed that it would be better or more exciting than our own. It usually isn’t.

What if we could see our own lives curated in the same way? Would we be jealous of ourselves and wish to escape into that life?


Have you read Ready Player Tw0? Did you read Ready Player One? Or watch the movie? Comment and let me know what you think!

If you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it HERE!

Knowing You Have Consciousness – What Awareness Really Is

Knowing Consciousness quote with book cover background.
Last post from this glorious little book!

“The Buddha is one awakened to identity not with the body but with the knower of the body, nor with the thought but the knower of the thoughts, that is to say, with consciousness; knowing, furthermore, that his value derives from his power to radiate consciousness – as the value of a lightbulb derives from its power to radiate light.”

Myths to Live By” by Joseph Campbell

You could have seen the “lightbulb” go on over my head when I read that sentence. It hit me that hard.

“Awareness” is quite the buzzword these days, but I don’t think it’s for the right reasons.

It’s more important to people to be “aware” of whatever atrocities they were told by their leaders they were supposed to be outraged by. It’s hip to be “aware” of what we do or do not possess, how we present ourselves, or what image we promote with our online presence, i.e., being sure we have a washable mask on when we take our selfies or putting a temporary frame around our social media profile declaring our political allegiances.

But is that the “awareness” that counts?

Personally, I think it’s far more important to be self-aware, not in a “Do I look fat in this outfit?” or “Does my comment come off as racist?” kind of way, but more like this description of the Buddha. We should become aware of our consciousness, that we are not a body or a thought, but that we have a body and thoughts.

When we achieve this kind of awareness, our demeanor changes. We radiate that consciousness toward the world around us. When we find the inner peace that comes from the awareness of our consciousness, we suddenly increase in value to this world. We are not simply decorating the space with our presence but creating more for the room and those within our reach.

A dead lightbulb, or one supplied with no power, does nothing but take up space. Add power and suddenly it lights up the room, illuminating what’s in and making life easier for everyone that can see it. That could be each and every one of us. When we find the thing that powers us, we add value to the world around us. That is what “awareness” really is, consciousness of who we are.

Want to read this book? You can get it on Amazon HERE.
Read more of my thoughts about quotes from this book:
Are Our Cultural Differences Becoming Less Important?
Women Are Equal in Nature and Need as Men, Not the “Same As”
Using Words: Is the Art of Communication Lost

“The 28 Mansions of the Moon”

The 28 Mansions of the Moon book cover on a Joshua Tree.

This book is special because it is the first I’ve purchased and read because I followed the author on Instagram. I loved his posts and then saw that he had a book out…had to get it. It doesn’t take much for me to want to read a book, that’s for certain!

I’m thirty pages in today and enjoying it immensely. It’s different, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to read more and maybe learn more about what it’s based on.

You can find the book on Amazon here and follow the author on Instagram here.

“The 28 Mansions of the Moon” is also my first new read of 2021.

This year I plan on doing something different and read one book at a time for a while. I used to have two books going because one was usually a slow, difficult read that I could only focus on for about twenty minutes before my brain hurt. I may pick up one of those reads again and need to have two books going at once, but for now let’s see how this goes!

Cup of tea and a book journal.
Afternoon Tea

I have a brand-new book journal for the occasion.

Believe it or not, I found this lovely little book over a year ago in a shop in San Diego. I picked up and thought…no, I’ll just lose it before I need it…but it’s SO cute! Yep. I bought it and now I finally get to use it. Yay for keeping track of things!

Happy New Year Everyone!

If you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it HERE!

A Great Big Christmas Wish For YOU!

Merry Christmas on a lighted tinsel tree background.
Our new “Big Shiny Aluminum Christmas Tree” is here to greet you!

A Christmas Wish, my friends, at the end of the weirdest year of our collective lives.

I’m struggling this morning, attempting to put into meaningful words the feelings that are swirling around in my heart. It’s the job of poets and philosophers, ones far more talented than I am.

Who am I to even try? But everyone’s experience is simply another pixel. When we pull back to see the big picture, I don’t want there to be a piece missing, so I write, I read, I talk, I watch, I journal. I live another day, experience it fully and enjoy it. I attempt to make someone else smile, someone’s life a little easier, let someone know they are loved or at least seen.

Hopefully, my piece of the picture will be a bright one that catches your eye or highlights a dark spot.

Winter holidays are about moving through the darkest, coldest part of the year knowing that the spring is on its way back to us and then summer…the wheel keeps turning.

And, as good friend likes to remind me, then you die.

You know that weird week that comes between Christmas and New Year’s? I’m taking it off from blogging. I’ll be thinking and writing, considering what changes to make in the new year, and what I want to get done. I’m thinking of it as an extended (at home) meditation retreat. A kind of reboot. I’m getting older…shudders…and I feel like I’m running out of time.

My Christmas wish for you is that you love what you have in front of you, make cookies (even those Pillsbury cut and bake ones), wrap a silly gift, kiss a loved one, remember the past fondly, look forward to the future, and know that you are loved.

I know you love reading these posts every day, but don’t panic. I’ll be back. I promise.

New Read: The Art of Happiness

The Art of Happiness book cover on a desert background.

If there’s a “Art of Happiness,”
I want to practice it!

While culling through the pile of books a friend’s sudden move out of the state left me with, “The Art of Happiness” was one of the first books I picked up. Buddhism has come up in my studies this year quite often, so I’m leaning more into it. This book is not about Buddhism exactly, more about what a trained psychologist got out of meeting and talking with the Dalai Lama, but it should be interesting.

Personally, I’m less interested in the spiritual aspects of Buddhism than the cultural and personal peace aspects, but can you separate them? Christians say you can’t live a life of Christian peace without fully understanding and accepting Jesus as your personal savior, but I’ve found that you can learn a lot about human nature and how to live a good life by deep reading and study of the Bible. I’m sure one could say the same about any religion.

I’m curious to know more about the teachings of Buddhism. The blurb on the back of the book is right, they look so peaceful and happy. I want to know how they got there.


You can find The Art of Happiness at Thriftbooks. If you read it, let me know what you think!

You’ll find posts about my thoughts that were spurred by the reading of this book on the following pages.
Finding Balance in the Study of Eastern and Western Philosophy
Is the Purpose of Life the Pursuit of Happiness?

And, as always, if you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it on my Autobibliography page!

All Characters Are Important to the Story

All characters are important quote from the book on a desert background.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that you just can’t subtract a human from the story, no matter how hard you try. Even death doesn’t do that.”

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

In fiction and reality,
all characters are important to the story.

Yes, even the minor ones, the angels and demons, the good guys and bad guys. Everyone leaves a mark on your life, moves the story along, or simply creates depth to a moment in time.

My grandfather died. He was 86. Dementia took nearly ten years to fully claim his mind and he had been living in a memory care facility for the past year. So…to many of us…he was already gone. To those closest to him physically, his caregivers and my Mom, he was still a main character and his loss is strongly felt. To some of his family, he had faded into the background of their story long ago. And to others, he had been deleted completely, or so they think.

This quote reminded me of him and many other characters in my own life story, all of which are important and can’t be subtracted, even those I really wish could be. The cruel teacher from elementary school, the mean girl in junior high, the abusive boyfriend; heaven knows I’ve tried to erase those memories. Even if I were successful in erasing the memory of an event, I would still feel its effect on my life, like the way we “see” a blackhole in space. The event isn’t seen, it’s felt. To ignore that feeling, those clues, and continue your journey is a recipe for disaster.

The people in our past, the choices we’ve made, the opportunities we’ve taken or let pass, those memories aren’t all we have.

We have the imprint of those things on our life story. If we subtract people or events from our lives, the story is inconsistent. When we try to effectively work our way through the life we have today, we can feel like pages are missing. Things just don’t make sense. It’s extremely difficult, I’d say impossible, to work through a story with missing chapters or characters; to complete a puzzle with missing pieces.

He’s been gone from my daily life for many years now, but I still miss my Pop, more so now that he is physically missing from the world.

My grandfather was a major character in my life story, one of my biggest influencers growing up.

The older I get, the more I see him in myself. We both suffer from anxiety, a deep need to control the world around us, not to be in charge or the boss, but to make things easier for ourselves and hopefully the people in our lives. Our response to the overwhelming stress of trying to control outcomes typically results in anger and frustration, sometimes violence. We both feel things deeply and are known for our passionate responses. From the awe of a beautiful garden or majestic scene to the love of our families, from the excitement of a new experience to the frustration of dealing with troubles, neither of us has moderate feelings, only big, sometimes scary ones. In my case, I’m told that it’s part of my charm. In my Pop’s case, it was a demerit against him. I guess it just depends on who is judging, whether you are a positive or negative, a major or minor character in their story.

Characters, humans, cannot be subtracted from your story.

When you try to do so, you leave holes big and small. Holes are a mess to work around. A story with characters, paragraphs, chapters, or pages missing does nothing for anyone. Leave the bad parts, the rough parts, and the scary parts right where you can see and use them. Those people are part of you. For better or for worse, they made you who you are today.


Want to read this book? You can find it at Amazon HERE.
Want to read more quotes from this book?

Will We Lose Ourselves in the Virtual Reality?
Anxiety: The Lies My Brain Tells Me
Would You Want to Come Back for a Day?
Do We Have the Ability to Change the Meaning of Our Life Story?

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