Are we pursuing happiness, or is the happiness industry pursuing us?
And if our model of hedonism isn’t working, how do we hack our happiness back? Leo Johnson goes on a year-long journey to pick up life lessons of happiness from modern day practitioners of radically different philosophies.
It’s a journey that takes us from Yorkshire’s anti-fracking grannies to the slow footballing Vietnamese monks of Plum Village, from self-cutting poets to the Chief Happiness Officers Convention in Paris, from London’s asexual community to multi-orgasmic Swedish academics, and from World Champion Muay Thai women kick-boxers to Elvis-loving dementia sufferers.
What emerges is a set of starkly competing visions of the good life – ancient philosophies still duking it out to get punched in as the destination in our psychic Sat Navs.
What we meet is a set of individuals who have questioned the default comforts of the IKEA catalogue, defined the shape of the self, and chosen lives that give us a glimpse of how each of us can reclaim peace, reclaim purpose, reclaim pain, and reclaim pleasure – the real pleasure that hedonism promised.
5 x 14 mins series for BBC Radio 4
Episode 1: The Perfect Life
(Monday 16th July at 13.45)
Listen to The Perfect Life on BBC iPlayer now:
Is hedonism getting hacked? And if it is, how do we hack our happiness back?
Episode 2: Self-Harm Nation
(Tuesday 17th July at 13.45)
Listen to Self-Harm Nation on BBC iPlayer now:
Exploring radical alternatives to hedonism. What if happiness isn’t about pleasure at all?
Episode 3: Fight Club of the Soul
(Wednesday 18th July at 13.45)
Listen to Fight Club of the Soul on BBC iPlayer now:
Forget the moral chatter of the Stoics, is what matters denting the universe, unleashing the biggest you?
Episode 4: Existential Cool – Buddhism and the art of acceptance
(Thursday 19th July at 13.45)
Listen to Existential Cool on BBC iPlayer now:
Does true happiness come not from self-actualisation but from the opposite, dissolving the self?
Episode 5: Beyond Happiness
(Friday 20th July at 13.45)
Listen to Beyond Happiness on BBC iPlayer now:
What if happiness isn’t about the self at all.