Stumbling on Sadness

Last night, I decided on a whim to email an intellectual rockstar. We read Daniel Gilbert’s book, Stumbling on Happiness, in my senior philosophy seminary, and ever since that class, the thoughtful pursuit of happiness has been prevalent in my thoughts. Gilbert is a professor at the Harvard Psychology program, so I decided to go for it and invite him out for coffee.

Unsurprisingly, he responded with a template email politely declining. He wishes he could accept all such invitations from people who have appreciated his work in the popular media, but there are so many that that would be impractical.

This response set off a torrent of emotions in me, and allowed me to consciously observe a few discrepancies between emotions and rational thought. Though I understood the reasons for the response and would likely do the same in Gilbert’s position, I felt rejected, and hurt by dashed hopes. But the rationality-nurse in my mind quickly calmed the visceral impulse to cry at these setbacks. Instead, I reminded myself that it’s good to consider your interactions from the perspectives of the other person, because it’s hard to get upset if you would do the same thing in their place. Also, it’s important to respect the methods others use to achieve the goals that we hold ourselves, and perhaps even learn from them.

When we have sad emotions, we address them in the most effective way we know, and for me in this case, that means I’m going to seek interaction this morning with friends and loved ones. Little is more validating than being close to those who love you.

4 Replies to “Stumbling on Sadness”

  1. I agree with your final sentence. Here is what I would have done: contrived to run into him on campus, say after a class of his, and asked him to autograph his book, which I would have brought with me, a well-worn copy to indicated I had read it over and over. It would be harder, in person, to refuse an invitation to coffee …

    1. That’s a great idea, Sandy. I hadn’t totally given up, and I may try something like that at some point. I’m going to be in Boston for two years, and I doubt I’ll lose interest in meeting him.

  2. great musings Alex. I confess that I have a template That being said for the comedic value, I apply this template to almost all situations where I am finding myself hurt (after the initial pain) I truly believe, everyone is doing the best they can at any given moment. The combination of life experience, DNA, if I got hugged today all put me where I am, and it is why I do what I do.. yeah, I know, simply said: compassion.. it wins every time.. for all of us peace out

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