Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 129

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Friday, December 11 2009 (diary, Epicurus, happiness)

Epicurus : logo of the website Philosophy of Happiness : 2 continues from December 8
Having previously discussed ways and means to avoid or remove unhappiness from your mind, it is of course equally important to be aware of those conditions that positively make you happy, or at least content, with your daily life.
The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) had that sorted out pretty well 2,300 years ago. His three main factors providing happiness were :

1. Friendship     2. Freedom     3. Thought (to overcome anxieties)

More than two millennia later I find that Epicurus' choices still stack up very well with me now. I would personally however add two more factors : Good Health, right in front of Epicurus' list and the Environment at the end of it.

I write the following comments for my own clarification and record, but also for you, dear reader, to encourage you to write down and contemplate your factors for achieving happiness. My list, in the order of my personal priorities (and reflecting my introvert nature) is :

1. Health     2. Freedom     3. Thought     4. Friendship     5. Environment

1. Health
I am sure that Epicurus was well aware of this element but simply decided to keep it out of his philosophical considerations.
In our early years, as long as we stay healthy, we tend to neglect our health, by smoking, disregarding healthy food and exercise. As we move into our 40s however we become more conscious of growing older and tend to take better care of our bodies.
Now in my 70s I do some exercise (and feel very good after I have done it), take a few pills to keep my blood pressure and cholesterol down and have my regular checkups with my GP, dentist and periodontist. I am somewhat surprised that aspects of my deteriorating body (like increasing deafness, aches and pains in some of my limbs, reduced movement abilities) which would have worried me at a younger age, now don't appear to bother me at all. I am therefore at present quite happy with the state of my health.

2. Freedom
On our honeymoon in Braunlage, Germany 1963 Freedom, as I have reported extensively in my Blog (Freedom 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8), is, after good health, probably the most important factor contributing to my happiness (or lack thereof).
During my working years I found it hard to work for anyone other than exclusively myself and I have been happiest when doing so (after leaving my geological profession) as a simple and rather poorly paid private music teacher.
Now, while retired, my intense desire for freedom is keeping me from going into any fixed long term relationship with a woman. Since my separation from my former wife Antien, almost 30 years ago, I have not been able (or willing) to sustain another long term relationship. But I do feel it as a price I have to pay for my freedom.

3. Thought
Whereas an extrovert person would most likely have "Friends" at this level in his (or her) list, for me, being an outright introvert it is my mind which is my greatest companion.

In Altenahr, Germany 2008 Whereas Epicurus considered "thought" (for contributing to happiness) merely as its use in overcoming major anxieties (like "death, illness, poverty, superstition"), I consider thought as the main creative activity throughout my entire life.
The fact that, as a geologist, most of my creative expressions of thought were either suppressed or ignored, caused the major unhappiness and depressions in my life. Since leaving that profession I have been anxious and intensely determined never to fall into that abyss again.

These days, as long as my mind can roam through areas of interest, I am a happy man. Initially this was in the field of music, but now, through much reading, my mind can latch onto anything that catches his interest. To clarify and focus on these subjects I write them in my Blog. A wonderful pastime and hobby which gives me great pleassure.

4. Friends
Celebrating 54 years of friendship,Leiden 2009 A friend is someone who accepts you as you are, with whom you can comfortably be who you are, and which company you can enjoy even when neither of you is uttering a word.
This clearly is the happiness factor I am least successful with. For one simple reason : my best friends (those you make during your school and university days) all live at the other side of the Globe in The Netherlands.
But I am working on it. Last year I went over there and met with many of my friends, most of whom I had not seen in 30 years.

It was absolutely wonderful, but after my return to Australia I immediately felt pulled apart emotionally by two opposing happiness factors : my friends back in Holland and my preferred living environment here in Australia. In due course I have settled down on the issue and am now happily reconciled with the solution of remaining in Australia, but visiting my friends in Holland every 1-2 years or so.

With Darwin bridge partners Mairead, Lisa and Gaileen, October 2009
But companionship of friends from the present and recent past are also an important happiness factor, like my friends and bridge partners, especially in Darwin, with whom I enjoy great times and excellent company.

In addition through my habit of frequenting the same places for lunch over periods of time (Casuarina Bar Zushi, Palmerston Library Bistro, Mooloolaba Surf Club, etc.), I also nurture friendly acquaintances with staff, with whom I always exchange a few friendly words or a chat each day. This too contributes to my overall sense of happiness.

5. Environment
Mooloolaba Beach, SE Queensland, Australia As I have related previously in this Blog, after living for 29 years in the cold and depressing climate of The Netherlands, a major goal in my life was to seek a more pleasant environment. In this respect I benefited greatly form my study and qualification as a geologist, for it gave me the opportunity and springboard to follow through on that goal.

My choice of emigrating to Australia (in 1965) is still one of the very best decisions I ever made in my life. And it has contributed significantly to my overall well being and happiness, as it also did for Antien and my two children. I hate the cold and love the warmer climates with predominantly sunny days and clear blue skies, where I can dress casually in shorts and a T-shirt. Over the years I have gradually moved more or less permanently to the Northern half of this continent, with the Queensland Sunshine Coast, 500km south of the Tropic of Capricorn, the southern most part I rarely travel beyond.

The other important environmental choice of course is between a major city and country life. Although I have enjoyed life in Newcastle and Adelaide, I much prefer the country provided I stay conveniently close to medium size centers like Darwin or the Sunshine Coast for shopping, dining etc.

Well, that is my story as far as factors for happiness is concerned. But I stay alert on these issues and fine tune or change them as I see new opportunities or experience a change of mood or direction in my life.
Philosophy of Happiness continues on December 20

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Saturday - Monday, December 12 - 14 2009 (diary)

Babette's dinner composition : aubergines, miso, beans, pickles, salmon Had a late Saturday night with Babette and Doug on the ThreePonds deck with rather too much to drink and did not get into bed until 3 in the morning.

So quite a hangover on Sunday. Still managed to do my swim and in the evening Babette had prepared a very creative Japanese meal (as shown on this photo) which improved my general condition considerably.

Monday back to normal. The last few days the wind has shifted from North towards the East and now has subsided, so that the Bluebottles menace has all but retreated.

I spent most of the day doing chores I had put off for too long and also wrote most of my Christmas messages by mail and email. Bridge again tomorrow and look forward to that.

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Tuesdayday, December 15 2009 (diary, Jean-Paul Sartre, Rachel)

Book illustration by Yesterday I picked up a book from the Maroochydore Public Library which I had ordered : The Age of Reason by Jean- Paul Sartre. It is an absolutely wonderful leather bound Heron Books Edition of 1970, one of their series of "Books that have Changed Man's Thinking".

The novel is illustrated with a number of exquisite drawings by "Rachel" (1969) and also includes numerous photos of Sartre and his entourage as well as an useful "Appreciation" by Maurice Cranston. I just had to photograph a few of Rachel's illustrations for inclusion in my Blog.

I have looked all over the Internet to find out more about this mysterious "Rachel" but have been unsuccessful. I assume she must have been a friend of Sartre or perhaps of his polyamorous "partner" Simone de Beauvoir.

The clock with its droopy ("ticking") attachments is somewhat reminiscent of Salvador Dali's "melting" watches. Its meaning in the book : Marcelle is pregnant and is planning to have an abortion, so the "clock is ticking".

Today a quiet restful day, bridge in the morning, surf in the afternoon, watching a film on TV in the evening.

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