Illusionist Derren Brown explores ideas of happiness at The Hawth

Derren Brown

Derren Brown

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Mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown doesn’t claim to have discovered the secret of happiness. But he is offering us all a different perspective on it.

He will be visiting The Hawth, Crawley, on Friday, October 21, to talk about his latest book, HAPPY.

Derren draws on two millennia of philosophy to help answer the questions: What does being happy actually mean? And how might we enjoy more of it?

Since ancient times, philosophers have thought about happiness and formulated all sorts of different theories for how we might live a considered life. Derren takes us on a journey from classical Greece to the present day.

“I think a lot of the modern ideas around the notion of happiness are actually quite self-defeating. We are told to believe that there is this thing called ‘happiness’, that it is something that we are somehow entitled to and that it is something we can work towards and set as our goal, and that if we don’t achieve happiness, we have somehow failed somewhere down the line. I think that’s actually a pretty unhelpful model.

“A lot of the book – and what I will be talking about – goes back to much older conception of happiness before the Christian era hijacked the whole question of happiness. Their way of seeing things made it all much more obvious and was much more conducive to reality, and that is to see happiness as what was left once you remove anxiety.

“I have got a very aching tooth at the moment. The rest of my body is fine, but all I notice is my tooth. But when I am free from that disturbance, I will have happiness.”

Or rather the state that the Greeks called ‘ataraxia’, a term used by Pyrrho and Epicurus for a lucid state of robust tranquillity, characterised by ongoing freedom. Doesn’t that sound like a rather negative, unambitious definition of happiness? A state defined by an absence of disturbance?

Derren concedes – up to a point: “It can sound a little anaemic compared to the idea that happiness is something active.”

But Derren links it back to a centring of ourselves – whether we want the thrill of a rollercoaster or the deeper pleasures of an afternoon looking after a sick relative.

In the book and talk, Derren sets out to show why positive thinking makes us feel bad, why goal-setting doesn’t work and why we might benefit from lowering our expectations.

Tickets cost £27. Visit www.hawth.co.uk.

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