Tag Archives: Csikszentmihalyi

Happiness as Portrayed by the Artists (Part 3)

In my two previous posts I presented the works of Eakins and Degas.  Both of these two artists presented individuals that have attained happiness.  The artworks depict masters of their respective occupations who have achieved Maslow’s self-actualization level, Csikszentmihalyi’s unity with universal values, and Campbell’s ability to cross between the spiritual and everyday worlds with contaminating the one with the other.

In both artworks, the main character appears suspended, distant from the others but still present in the scene.  In fact, none of the other characters in the scenes are looking directly at the main characters; again, reinforcing the separateness of the main characters from the everyday world.

Below is a third representation of this depiction of individual happiness by another great artist.

 

 

Freedom from Want (Rockwell, 1943)

Freedom From Want Painting by Rockwell

 

Attention is now on the isolated grandparents, who as a couple, accepted the call to adventure and sacrificed through hard work and dedication for the successful upbringing of their family. Their journey’s accomplishment is illustrated by their humble gestures (grandmother cooked for all the others to enjoy) and the successful gratification of their offspring’s physiological and safety needs – most assuredly the grandparents’ quest.  

Just as in the two paintings mentioned in the previous posts, the characters seated at the table in this painting are not looking at the two main characters standing.  The two grandparents are almost hovering above the table, isolated from the conversations of those seated at the table.

 

Happiness as Portrayed by the Artists (Part 2)

I would like to turn to the great masters of the fine arts to further explore the achievement of happiness: Maslow’s final level of his hierarchy of needs, Csikszentmihalyi’s forging a unity with universal values, and the ability of Campbell’s hero to go back and forth between the everyday world and the spiritual world.

As I discussed in the previous post, Maslow, Csikszentmihalyi, and Campbell, the three modern thinkers presented in my book, teach that the fulfillment that is encountered upon reaching happiness is a completion of one’s destiny or mission in life.  The life that is experienced by those in true happiness is one free from all fears and human desires, competitiveness, striving, fatigue, and personal ambitions.

Let’s look at another master of the art world who depicts such a life of one who has achieved true happiness (has reached Maslow’s final level of the hierarchy, Csikszentmihalyi’s unity with universal values, and Campbell’s comfort with the everyday world as well as the spiritual world.

The Dance Class (Degas, 1874)

The Dance Class by Degas

Jules Perrot, the great dancer and ballet master of Europe, is teaching the class. The musicians have taken a break. All the girls are engaged in conversation, except one.   That one girl is seen dancing for the master. She is in a state of ecstasy. As she executes her pirouette, the viewer is uncertain as to the success of its execution; the tutu of the girl in the foreground hides the result. But the outcome does not matter; the master is seemingly enthralled by her enthusiasm and courage to come forward.

As expressed in the Eakins painting in the previous post, the master is standing apart from the others in the scene.  None of the other characters is looking at him.  Perhaps he is alone in a spiritual world, to return soon to the everyday world of his class.  He expresses autonomy, effortlessness, self-sufficiency, and a willingness to assist others.  He exists in both worlds and, as a result of his mastery, has been able to bring the boon of teaching and instruction to others.

Happiness as Portrayed by the Artists (Part 1)

I would like to turn to the great masters of the fine arts to further explore the achievement of happiness: Maslow’s final level of his hierarchy of needs, Csikszentmihalyi’s forging a unity with universal values, and the ability of Campbell’s hero to go back and forth between the everyday world and the spiritual world.  I would like to focus first on the individual and then later turn to the flourishing of society.

The fulfillment that is encountered upon reaching happiness is a completion of one’s destiny or mission in life.  The life that is experienced by those in true happiness is one free from all fears and human desires, competitiveness, striving, fatigue, and personal ambitions.

Let’s look at one master of the art world.

The Agnew Clinic

(Eakins, 1889, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia)

The Agnew Clinic by Thomas Eakins,

This is a work showing in stark gruesome realism the mastectomy of the woman lying on the operating table and the surgeon/instructor standing to the left.  It depicts the surgeon as the teacher/hero to those in the surgical circle as well as the stands.  He is self-sufficient and independent from the others in the painting.  He is able to go back and forth from the relaxed and fulfilled world of an esteemed teacher to a noted surgeon (depicted with scalpel in left hand) in the everyday world of medicine.

Not one character in the painting is looking directly at the surgeon/teacher – it is as if he is not present.   But the viewer sees him as one that is confident, free of all desires and ambitions, and fatigue-free and alert to his surroundings and duties.  He is free to go from the everyday world to the spiritual world (in which he is seen standing) at his discretion.  The surgeon/teacher has no need of attention or praise from others – he is above all that and perhaps witnessing peak experiences.

More great art to come

What is Happiness? (Part 2)

In my previous post I began discussing the concept of happiness as presented by two modern psychologists, Csikszentmihalyi and Maslow.  In particular, Maslow mentioned that an individual enjoying happiness is “motivated primarily by trends to self-actualization… as fulfillment of a mission (or call, fate, destiny, or vocation)…”  It is the fulfillment of this mission or call that is further explored by Campbell in which the returning hero of myth, having crossed the return threshold with the loving help of others and whose boon is accepted by society, is awarded the position as the master of two worlds – the material and the spiritual.

For Campbell, “Freedom to pass back and forth across the world division, from the perspective of the apparitions of time to that of the casual deep and back – not contaminating the principles of the one with the other, yet permitting the mind to know the one by virtue of the other – is the talent of the Master.” Campbell goes on to say, “The individual, through prolonged disciplines, gives up completely all attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes, and fears. … His personal ambitions being totally dissolved, he no longer tries to live but willingly relaxes to whatever may come to pass in him …” 

It is now that we witness the convergence of the conclusions arrived at by the intellectual “prose” of Maslow, Csikszentmihalyi, and Campbell.  More to come!

What is Happiness? (Part 1)

Let’s begin our understanding of happiness by first looking at two of the three modern thinkers: Csikszentmihalyi and Maslow.

Csikszentmihalyi teaches of those few who have reached his fourth and final stage of development, “The fourth step, which builds on all the previous ones, is a final turning away from the self, back toward an integration with other people and with universal values.  In this final stage the extremely individualized person… willingly merges his interests with those of a larger whole.” Csikszentmihalyi goes on to mention, “… only a precious few emerge (i.e., reach the fourth and final level) once again to forge a unity with universal values.”

Maslow echoes a similar sentiment for those who have satisfied their belongingness and self-esteem needs (third and fourth needs of five), as they are now, “motivated primarily by trends to self-actualization (defined as ongoing actualization of potentials, capacities and talents, as fulfillment of a mission (or call, fate, destiny, or vocation), as a fuller knowledge of, and acceptance of, the person’s own intrinsic nature, as an unceasing trend toward unity, integration or synergy within the person).”

The thoughts of the modern thinkers would not be complete without the teachings of Campbell, to be discussed in the next post.