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Solved by verified expert:Writing Project #3: Synthesis Length: at least 3 pages. Resources:Yuval Harari, Sapiens, chapter 19, esp. from page 385 to end of page 390.Emily Estfahani Smith, “There’s More to Life than Being Happy,” The Atlantic. 9, 2013. Description: The goal of this assignment is to master the skills necessary to pull together two texts that address related or similar topics. You will not only submit the ideas of the two authors (i.e. summarizing their arguments—“THEY SAY”), but you will also enter into the conversation (i.e. analyzing their arguments) by presenting your own ideas (“I SAY”) which have been further thought out through the synthesis of these two pieces.The Task: The basis of this writing project is explaining the connections between texts and articulating your own conclusions. You will write a thesis-driven essay that engages in a meaningful exchange between the arguments found in two texts: Harari, chapter 19 from page 385 to end of page 390, and an essay in The Atlantic. Both pieces explore how people can be happy, but come to different conclusions.First, determine what the central arguments are in each of these pieces. (Focus on the part in Harari, chapter 19 that discusses biochemistry.) Think about the author’s main claims, and what evidence or data they use to support their claims? You should highlight and address differences and similarities between the essays. Include relevant quotations as long as you give attribution (who wrote it) and explain the relevance to your paper.Then, take your own position. State and explain the thesis you developed in response to these two pieces. Use your thesis as a means of cross checking whether the quotations you include support your overall analysis. To make a long story short: you need to explain the relationship between both essays and then put forward your own contribution to the overall discussion in these essays about happiness.Typed, double-spaced, 12-point font. Length: at least 3 pages.
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There’s More to Life Than Being Happy
By Emily Esfanani Smith, The Atlantic, Jan. 9, 2013
“It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”
In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and
neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration
camp with his wife and parents. Three years later, when his camp was
liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished -but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived. In his bestselling 1946
book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which he wrote in nine days about his
experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between
those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing:
Meaning, an insight he came to early in life. When he was a high school
student, one of his science teachers declared to the class, “Life is nothing
more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation.” Frankl jumped
out of his chair and responded, “Sir, if this is so, then what can be the
meaning of life?”
As he saw in the camps, those who found meaning even in the most
horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those
who did not. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,” Frankl
wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “the last of the human freedoms — to
choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own
way.”
Frankl worked as a therapist in the camps, and in his book, he gives the
example of two suicidal inmates he encountered there. Like many others in
the camps, these two men were hopeless and thought that there was
nothing more to expect from life, nothing to live for. “In both cases,” Frankl
writes, “it was a question of getting them to realize that life was still
expecting something from them; something in the future was expected of
them.” For one man, it was his young child, who was then living in a foreign
country. For the other, a scientist, it was a series of books that he needed to
finish. Frankl writes:
This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and
gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much
as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is
1
realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and
its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes
conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who
affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able
to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be
able to bear almost any “how.”
Viktor Frankl [Herwig Prammer/Reuters]
In 1991, the Library of Congress and Book-of-the-Month Club listed Man’s
Search for Meaning as one of the 10 most influential books in the United
States. It has sold millions of copies worldwide. Now, over twenty years
later, the book’s ethos — its emphasis on meaning, the value of suffering,
and responsibility to something greater than the self — seems to be at odds
with our culture, which is more interested in the pursuit of individual
happiness than in the search for meaning. “To the European,” Frankl wrote,
“it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is
commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it
must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’
According to Gallup , the happiness levels of Americans are at a four-year
high — as is, it seems, the number of best-selling books with the word
“happiness” in their titles. At this writing, Gallup also reports that nearly 60
percent all Americans today feel happy, without a lot of stress or worry. On
the other hand, according to the Center for Disease Control, about 4 out of
10 Americans have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Forty percent
either do not think their lives have a clear sense of purpose or are neutral
about whether their lives have purpose. Nearly a quarter of Americans feel
neutral or do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful.
Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases
overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical
health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the
chances of depression. On top of that, the single-minded pursuit of
happiness is ironically leaving people less happy, according to recent
research. “It is the very pursuit of happiness,” Frankl knew, “that thwarts
happiness.”
***
This is why some researchers are cautioning against the pursuit of mere
happiness. In a new study, which will be published this year in a
forthcoming issue of the Journal of Positive Psychology, psychological
2
scientists asked nearly 400 Americans aged 18 to 78 whether they thought
their lives were meaningful and/or happy. Examining their self-reported
attitudes toward meaning, happiness, and many other variables — like
stress levels, spending patterns, and having children — over a month-long
period, the researchers found that a meaningful life and happy life overlap
in certain ways, but are ultimately very different. Leading a happy life, the
psychologists found, is associated with being a “taker” while leading a
meaningful life corresponds with being a “giver.”
“Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, selfabsorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are
easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,” the
authors write.
How do the happy life and the meaningful life differ? Happiness, they
found, is about feeling good. Specifically, the researchers found that people
who are happy tend to think that life is easy, they are in good physical
health, and they are able to buy the things that they need and want. While
not having enough money decreases how happy and meaningful you
consider your life to be, it has a much greater impact on happiness. The
happy life is also defined by a lack of stress or worry.
Most importantly from a social perspective, the pursuit of happiness is
associated with selfish behavior — being, as mentioned, a “taker” rather
than a “giver.” The psychologists give an evolutionary explanation for this:
happiness is about drive reduction. If you have a need or a desire — like
hunger — you satisfy it, and that makes you happy. People become happy,
in other words, when they get what they want. Humans, then, are not the
only ones who can feel happy. Animals have needs and drives, too, and
when those drives are satisfied, animals also feel happy, the researchers
point out.
“Happy people get a lot of joy from receiving benefits from others while
people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others,”
explained Kathleen Vohs, one of the authors of the study, in a recent
presentation at the University of Pennsylvania. In other words, meaning
transcends the self while happiness is all about giving the self what it wants.
People who have high meaning in their lives are more likely to help others
in need. “If anything, pure happiness is linked to not helping others in
need,” the researchers, which include Stanford University’s Jennifer Aaker
and Emily Garbinsky, write.
3
What sets human beings apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness,
which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which
is unique to humans, according to Roy Baumeister, the lead researcher of
the study and author, with John Tierney, of the recent book Willpower:
Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. Baumeister, a social
psychologist at Florida State University, was named an ISI highly cited
scientific researcher in 2003.
The study participants reported deriving meaning from giving a part of
themselves away to others and making a sacrifice on behalf of the overall
group. In the words of Martin E. P. Seligman, one of the leading
psychological scientists alive today, in the meaningful life “you use your
highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe
is larger than the self.” For instance, having more meaning in one’s life was
associated with activities like buying presents for others, taking care of kids,
and arguing. People whose lives have high levels of meaning often actively
seek meaning out even when they know it will come at the expense of
happiness. Because they have invested themselves in something bigger than
themselves, they also worry more and have higher levels of stress and
anxiety in their lives than happy people. Having children, for example, is
associated with the meaningful life and requires self-sacrifice, but it has
been famously associated with low happiness among parents, including the
ones in this study. In fact, according to Harvard psychologist Daniel
Gilbert, research shows that parents are less happy interacting with their
children than they are exercising, eating, and watching television.
“Partly what we do as human beings is to take care of others and contribute
to others. This makes life meaningful but it does not necessarily make us
happy,” Baumeister told me in an interview.
Meaning is not only about transcending the self, but also about
transcending the present moment — which is perhaps the most important
finding of the study, according to the researchers. While happiness is an
emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all
emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The
amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness
but not at all with meaning.
Meaning, on the other hand, is enduring. It connects the past to the present
to the future. “Thinking beyond the present moment, into the past or
future, was a sign of the relatively meaningful but unhappy life,” the
4
researchers write. “Happiness is not generally found in contemplating the
past or future.” That is, people who thought more about the present were
happier, but people who spent more time thinking about the future or
about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their lives, though
they were less happy.
Having negative events happen to you, the study found, decreases your
happiness but increases the amount of meaning you have in life. Another
study from 2011 confirmed this, finding that people who have meaning in
their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rate their satisfaction
with life higher even when they were feeling bad than those who did not
have a clearly defined purpose. “If there is meaning in life at all,” Frankl
wrote, “then there must be meaning in suffering.”
***
Which brings us back to Frankl’s life and, specifically, a decisive experience
he had before he was sent to the concentration camps. It was an incident
that emphasizes the difference between the pursuit of meaning and the
pursuit of happiness in life.
In his early adulthood, before he and his family were taken away to the
camps, Frankl had established himself as one of the leading psychiatrists in
Vienna and the world. As a 16-year-old boy, for example, he struck up a
correspondence with Sigmund Freud and one day sent Freud a two-page
paper he had written. Freud, impressed by Frankl’s talent, sent the paper to
the International Journal of Psychoanalysis for publication. “I hope you
don’t object,” Freud wrote the teenager.
While he was in medical school, Frankl distinguished himself even further.
Not only did he establish suicide-prevention centers for teenagers — a
precursor to his work in the camps — but he was also developing his
signature contribution to the field of clinical psychology: logotherapy,
which is meant to help people overcome depression and achieve well-being
by finding their unique meaning in life. By 1941, his theories had received
international attention and he was working as the chief of neurology at
Vienna’s Rothschild Hospital, where he risked his life and career by making
false diagnoses of mentally ill patients so that they would not, per Nazi
orders, be euthanized.
5
That was the same year when he had a decision to make, a decision that
would change his life. With his career on the rise and the threat of the Nazis
looming over him, Frankl had applied for a visa to America, which he was
granted in 1941. By then, the Nazis had already started rounding up the
Jews and taking them away to concentration camps, focusing on the elderly
first. Frankl knew that it would only be time before the Nazis came to take
his parents away. He also knew that once they did, he had a responsibility
to be there with his parents to help them through the trauma of adjusting to
camp life. On the other hand, as a newly married man with his visa in hand,
he was tempted to leave for America and flee to safety, where he could
distinguish himself even further in his field.
As Anna S. Redsand recounts in her biography of Frankl, he was at a loss
for what to do, so he set out for St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna to clear
his head. Listening to the organ music, he repeatedly asked himself,
“Should I leave my parents behind?… Should I say goodbye and leave them
to their fate?” Where did his responsibility lie? He was looking for a “hint
from heaven.”
When he returned home, he found it. A piece of marble was lying on the
table. His father explained that it was from the rubble of one of the nearby
synagogues that the Nazis had destroyed. The marble contained the
fragment of one of the Ten Commandments — the one about honoring your
father and your mother. With that, Frankl decided to stay in Vienna and
forgo whatever opportunities for safety and career advancement awaited
him in the United States. He decided to put aside his individual pursuits to
serve his family and, later, other inmates in the camps.
The wisdom that Frankl derived from his experiences there, in the middle
of unimaginable human suffering, is just as relevant now as it was then:
“Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone,
other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to
encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to
serve or another person to love — the more human he is.”
Baumeister and his colleagues would agree that the pursuit of meaning is
what makes human beings uniquely human. By putting aside our selfish
interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves — by
devoting our lives to “giving” rather than “taking” — we are not only
expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that that
there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.
6

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