King Solomon’s ring

There are several different versions of the parable of King Salomon’s ring, but this the one I like the most. This is the version as told by David Franko from Turkey, written down by Heda Jason.

One day King Solomon decided to teach humility to Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, one of his ministers. He said to him, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot holiday which gives you six months to find it.” “If it exists anywhere on earth, Your Majesty, ” replied Benaiah, “I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?” “It has the magic powers, ” answered the king. “If a happy man wears it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man wears it, he becomes happy.” Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.

Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he took a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes a happy man forget his joy and a sad man forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah. He watched the old merchant take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it.
When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile. That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity.

“Well, my friend, ” said the King Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled. To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, Your Majesty!”
As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words “gam zeh ya’avor”—-this too shall pass. At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.”

When things are getting rough, it can be hard to see the light on the other end of the tunnel and I find it very comforting to remember that “this too shall pass”. It doesn’t make things easier or go by sooner, but it does give hope. I think hope is one of the most important things we humans need. If there’s no hope, then, what is there to live for?

When you’re happy you wish that it will last forever. You don’t want to think of the fact that this will pass. At least that was the first thing I thought. But I actually came to appreciate it for my happy moments as well.

Because, aren’t we often taking happy moments for granted? How often do we not take the time to really enjoy because we’re preoccupied with all those other, often trivial, things? How often are we missing out on the beautiful moments life offers us because we got used to it? Until the moment it’s no longer there and you realize you should have enjoyed it more.

By remembering “this too shall pass”, I remember that I need to take time to live in the moment. That I need to suck in all of the love, happiness and joy I possibly can. Even if it’s closing my eyes and enjoy the sun for just a second. It’s important, because these moments too shall pass and we may need the memories of these happy moments to get us through more challenging times.

Emodiversity. Emowhat!?

This research project builds on the idea that our evolutionarily older brain systems are not solely a source of immorality and selfishness, but when tuned by our goals, can contribute to moral and just behavior. Thus, human flourishing does not come from the suppression of aspects of the self, but rather through the integration of all relevant processes together into a unified response.
How happy brains respond to negative things, by Summer Allen and Jeremy Adam Smith

Today I finished the first week of my course “The science of happiness” (the great thing about these courses is that you can do them at your own pace). There were a few things I already knew and there were some interesting things I didn’t know.

One thing I had never heard of was emodiversity. Emowhat!?!? Apparently I missed something. Emodiversity is the variety and abundance of emotions a person has. Study shows that people with a high emodiversity are less likely to be depressed than people that are high in just positive emotions. Also, high emodiversity is linked to better health. So, it may be better for our overall happiness to feel negative emotions like anger at appropriate times than to try to deny them and feel happy all the time.

I think that all emotions are parts of us that have a reason for speaking up, whether we like to hear it or not. I actually believe that all of these parts have a good intention for us as well. Some of these parts just don’t know how to express themselves in a healthy way.
Like I said in Egowise, I feel it’s important to listen seriously to what all your parts have to say in a neutral way. Then, see what they say is real and/or helpful or not. Not scientific at all, but my own experience is that when I don’t listen they only tend to scream louder. And maybe it doesn’t work for everybody and maybe it’s worth a try.

Curious about your emodiversity? Don’t worry, of course they developed a test you can do. And of course I took it 🙂 . Much to my surprise it said I have an emodiversity of 99%!? I know I sometimes feel like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t equal emodiversity 🙂 .


Too much Sex and the City?

The other day I started reading “Bird by Bird: some instructions on writing and life” by Anne Lamott. I haven’t finished it yet and I’m not entirely sure I will. I think I have a different sense of humor and I’m not too fond of her “on life” moments.
There is one thing she wrote that I do like though. She says most writers start with a crummy first draft and go from there. According to her it’s normal to write and write and end up using only a part, maybe as little as one sentence, of it and start (again) from there. True or not, I like to believe it, because that’s exactly what I do. I start writing down everything that comes to mind in the way in comes to mind, which usually ends up as an pretty unreadable first draft. Then, I read it again and start adding and removing (sometimes all of it).

I don’t know, maybe I’ve been watching too much Sex and the City? If you’ve never seen it: the lead character, Carrie Bradshaw, writes a weekly column (yes, you guessed right, called Sex and the City) for a newspaper. In most, if not all, episodes she starts with something, then has a writer’s block only to write down a perfect article in one breath (ok, maybe change a word or two, but that’s it) at the end of every episode. Yes… I know! It’s television! But still, I kind of imagined writers to have a reasonable sense of where they’re going, write it down and then start tweaking and tuning.

Anyway, I realized the road you take really isn’t important, as long as you go and end up in a place you like. If I’m ever to become a writer (pfff, that’s scary to say, it feels so presumptuous) there’s only one thing to do. Ok, two actually: write hard and stop ruminating.
If people like it, they will read it and maybe tell others about it and if not… Well, then not. And there will always be people that may not be interested or think you’re no good. But let’s keep it real, that’s life. No matter what you do or say, there will always be somebody who doesn’t agree, thinks you’re no good or whatever. As with everything in life it boils down to: love and respect yourself and others and make choices that reflect that en it you will have peace of mind. Life is really quite simple, it’s just the execution that may be challenging 🙂 .

The science of happiness

Isn’t it wonderful when life gives you what you’re looking for at exactly the right moment?
In search of more information on Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher who works in the field of self-compassion (no worries, we’ll get to that some other time 🙂 ) I ended up at the site of the Berkeley university. Very interesting site, and as I was browsing, I noticed that they offer a FREE (hey, I’m still Dutch 🙂 ) course: The science of happiness.

The Berkeley site says:
The free eight-week course explores the roots of a happy and meaningful life through science and practice. Students will engage with some of the most provocative and practical lessons from the latest research, discovering how cutting-edge research can be applied to their own lives.

Just so happens I was looking for a happy and meaningful life 🙂 so, I signed up. It starts September 6th, so if you might be interested, there’s still time to sign up. Remember: it’s FREE 🙂 . This MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is offered through EdX.