Happiness lessons from…Mark Twain!

Happiness lessons from…Mark Twain!

by Oliver Burkeman for The Guardian

This year marks a century since the deaths of perhaps the two greatest psychologists America has ever produced. The one getting the attention in university psychology departments is William James, and fair enough: he did essentially invent the modern discipline. The other is Mark Twain. And if it’s technically a little late to mark his centenary, I refer you to the following apology from Twain himself, real name Samuel Clemens: “I am a long time answering your letter, my dear Miss Harriet, but then you must remember that it is an equally long time since I received it _ã_ so that makes us even, & nobody to blame on either side.”

There’s a scurrilous rumour abroad, on self-improvement websites, that Twain is the source of the simpering fridge-magnet quotation “Dance like nobody’s watching/Love like you’ve never been hurt/Sing like nobody’s listening/Live like it’s heaven on earth”. What’s interesting is not that this attribution is wrong, but that it’s so precisely wrong: that quote embodies the opposite of Twain’s acerbic, self-deprecating, winkingly ironic wit. Even the genuine Twainisms recycled in countless self-help books _ã_ “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter” _ã_ aren’t his best. I think I know why. Popular psychology, these days, is a strikingly earnest field; acerbic wit is largely the preserve of cynics who scoff at self-help. It’s bizarre: all these grinning gurus preaching happiness, yet without much sense of humour. Twain proved that needn’t be so: you can dispense real, uncynical life-wisdom, and still be hilarious.

Twain had little time for platitudes…

…but clearly he had time for with and comedy, which in turn are clearly related to happiness. So if you want to read the full and original version of this article THEN JUST CLICK HERE