"In a world that seems caught between pure hedonism and divisive sectarianism, the book mounts a timely challenge"by Naomi Goulder / February 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith (Rider, £14.99)
Everyone wants to be happy. But our cultural obsession with happiness is wrong. What makes for a good life is not happiness, but meaning.
So argues the writer Emily Esfahani Smith in an intelligent page-turner that mobilises a wide range of social-psychological data—including a vast recent study into suicide by Shigehiro Oishi and Ed Diener—and ideas from the likes of Aristotle, Friedrich Nietzsche, William James, Émile Durkheim, Viktor Frankl and Albert Camus, to make the case for a major cultural re-orientation towards meaning.
The discussion is organised around four “pillars of meaning”: belonging (“connecting and bonding with people in positive ways”); purpose (“having a mission tied to contributing to society”); narrative (redemptive sense-making); and transcendence (experience of loss of self and of connection with the wider world).