Personal Response Essay – Jeffrey Andreoni’s Why Can’t I Feel What I See

6 June 2016

Personal Response Essay: Jeffrey Andreoni’s Why Can’t I Feel What I See Jeffrey Andreoni states in his article “Why Can’t I Feel What I See” that happiness was much easier attained by the generation born in the first third of last century than more recent generations. The idea presented to explain this statement is that recently we as a society decided that happiness is to be measured “in terms of material gain” (3); when really all that is needed for happiness is to create things with our hands. To illustrate this, he compares himself to his grandfather; who was a poor carpenter with very few possessions.

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I can understand and even relate to Andreoni’s idea of why his grandfather was much happier. Reading his article might have even explained why I personally feel the way I do. Firstly, I agree with Andreoni’s idea that in our recent past, humans began requiring some “observable proof of happiness” (3), that happiness could only be measured in material gains. I believe the media has been a large player in creating this social belief. It is often advertisements that push this idea onto us that more is better; that we should always keep up to date with the latest electronic products and hottest fashion trends.

How often do advertisements pitch forth the idea of happiness without having to purchase something? I have personally seen very few of such advertisements. Another idea of Andreoni’s that I agreed with was the idea that happiness comes from creating things with our hands. Although I can only speak for myself, and I cannot definitively confirm his idea, I can confidently say there is a relationship between the two. When my family first moved to Canada I remember spending a lot of time watching my father build furniture for our home. I was mesmerized by how easily he converted raw building supplies into bed frames, wardrobes, and tables. After building up enough knowledge of power tools, I was able to start building my own tree fort at the age of eleven.

Two years later, standing fifteen feet above the ground, I had a fort with a waterproof roof, a retractable hammock, and a locking hatch through which only friends could enter. I was very proud of my creation. Unfortunately, two years after its completion, it had to be torn down on the grounds that one of the trees to which it was attached, died and was no longer bearing the weight of the fort. After two years of hard work, my castle had to come down from the trees and be thrown into a pile of rotting lumber. Despite its destruction, I felt no grief or sorrow.

I was proud of what I had created, and this pride continues to bring me happiness today. Although Andreoni’s idea of creating things with our hands is one way of making ourselves happy, I believe there are other things that bring us just as much, if not more, joy. The positive experiences I have had with my close friends have definitely brought me a great deal of happiness as well. Several years ago I went on an RV trip with two close friends across British Columbia; the beautiful scenery combined with the hooliganism that we got ourselves into during the trip will be something I will remember for a lifetime. Just like anything I have created with my hands, I will be able to look back on this experience and get joy from the memories it has created. Generally speaking, I agreed with most of what Andreoni has written about, and I strongly relate to his idea of using our hands. Although I also believe that the methods for attaining happiness are unique to each individual.

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