The Pursuit of Happiness: Evolving a Soul

William J. O'Malley, Author Thomas More Association $18.95 (311p) ISBN 978-0-88347-333-7
A teacher of theology and English at Fordham Preparatory School in New York, O'Malley here offers readers an enthusiastic yet misleading course in attaining what everyone wants most----happiness. ""Happiness is not an emotional condition, any more than love is,"" writes O'Malley, summarizing the conclusion reached by many religious and philosophical thinkers. ""We want not just to feel happy but to have a reason to be happy."" O'Malley makes the useful observation that true happiness requires feeling ""at home"" with oneself, other people and various communities. True security, he contends, cannot depend on any condition or attribute outside ourselves, but comes ""only when we possess and are content with our selves, confident enough to face whatever comes."" All this is well and good, but O'Malley summarizes and quips his way into some egregious errors. Most problematic is his equation of the quest for peace (as in Eastern religions) with Freud's ""death wish,"" or the ""drive toward being unbothered."" In fact, the Buddhist quest for inner peace is a starting point for radical openness and connection with others. Also disturbing is O'Malley's nostalgic claim that America was an ""altruistic community"" prior to the assassination of JFK. Perhaps intending to be succinct, the author can be flip, as when he dismisses euthanasia while scantingthe issue of chronic pain. The profoundly practical material that O'Malley does offer is poorly served by these hasty generalizations and ill-considered judgments. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Religion
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