Generally speaking, is Sam happy?

There's probably a more eloquent way to phrase what I'm trying to ask, but this is something I've never quite been able to get a calibration on. On the one hand he seems to have genuinely seen through the illusory self that is responsible for all suffering, and to be able to identify this as an illusion at will. I've never seen him really lose his temper or show any indications of being victim his own emotions.

At the same time, I'm not sure I've seen him particularly joyful either. He doesn't really radiate happiness. He just seems very calm and cool most of the time. Occasionally frustrated at people or ideas, though appropriately so.

I'm under no illusion that someone who is decently far along the path toward "enlightened" (or whatever word you prefer) should always appear joyful and bubbly. I'm just curious if Sam himself has ever commented candidly on his own average level of day-to-day suffering vs. happiness.

  • By - s4916


Have a listen to Absolutely Mental with Ricky Gervais & Sam Harris. They're have a tonne of fun cracking jokes together. It's a real heartwarming listen


Happier than Jordan Peterson, less happy than Joe Rogan




I'm not a bubbly, joyful type of person. By and large, I am happy, however. So... uh, yeah. There's that.


Yeah in these kinds of contexts I consider demeanor (e.g. bubbly and joyful or not) to have roughly no correlation with internal happiness either way to first order. Unfortunately that also means Sam's demeanor doesn't give any reliable info either way about his internal state of suffering vs. equanimity. Not really sure what would other than his own direct report of his subjective experience.


I once heard him chuckle a bit over his Wife rebuking his advances. I think it was a YouTube interview if I find it I'll link it. Also some people really struggle expressing outward emotion. My husband is sort of the mindset similar to Sam's and you will not find him outwardly expressing joy or anything like that to people he's not close with. I basically only see my husband express joy or contentment when his brother visits or when playing with our children and when it's just us two.


I have always sensed some general insecurity in Sam, it seems to me that he is almost always speaking to people who have much deeper academic and/or scientific credibility and accomplishment than he does and he at times is striving to sound like an insider and not a somewhat controversial celebrity pundit. I am also always struck by his anecdote (that he repeats ad nauseum) about a argument with Joseph Goldstein that was "the only time he lost an argument in a knockout punch" (I am paraphrasing). I can't imagine walking around with apparently complete confidence that in every argument I only once was defeated. I think that attitude is almost anathema to genuine debate for the sake of advancing knowledge. I have always been curious what Joseph thinks of Sam, Joseph just seems so much more stable and compassionate. I listen to Sam's content for the great guests and provocative viewpoints.


Your take is extremely incharitable of him, I wonder if you might have a deeper issue with him that you haven’t explored yet. The anecdote with Joseph never appeared to me about signaling that he never lost a debate, but that his faulty view became so quickly obvious to him. I can’t even recall one story from my life like that, I bet it was a very memorable experience for him, so give him a break.


I am certain my own issues are deep and hardly plumbed, including by comparison to Sam! However I think if you listen to the Joseph goldstein anecdote the words he says are consistent with my interpretation of that statement.


Oh I listened to it many times, in lots of interviews, and it bores me to death as well.😅 But I still think that it’s just a very memorable experience in his life and meditation journey (in a retreat setting where every nugget of wisdom is amplified), and nothing more. Good day!


He seems to have strong opinions, not emotions


His latest Making Sense podcast intro seems to suggest he's a lot happier having quit Twitter.


This phenomenon was really interesting to me, that someone who has gone as deep into meditation and mindfulness as he has, could find themselves addicted to social media despite the fact that he very well knows how bad it is for you. He's spent hours with people on his podcast who have careers telling people to get off social media (Cal Newport, Jaron Lanier, Tristan Harris). I think it helpfully illustrates the limits of meditation. You can be the worlds best meditator and still get addicted to things to are obviously making you unhappy.


The problem wasn't that he was addicted, as he explains. The problem was that interacting with Twitter, for however long, was giving him a distorted picture of humanity. It was showing the worst of people. The last couple of years he didn't spend much time on it.


I essentially bought all seasons of absolutely mental to hear Sam Harris laugh. Ricky Gervais manages that nicely.


I have the impression that Sam is somewhat the inverse of Loch Kelly -- ie that Sam is hugely articulate when it comes to awakening & all relevant frameworks, but that maybe the actual nectar of awakening (or however you want to say it) hasn't penetrated all the way to the core of his being. Which is to say that I bet he still experiences most of life -- moods, irritations, etc. -- the same way as a non-meditator does, albeit a bit more spaciously, and that he has access to quite deep, peaceful states when he takes the time for it.


I really do believe Sam is "happy", or at least at peace. He probably meditates for 1hr+ everyday, spent around 10 years in a monastery, has good friends, a loving wife and kids. If you believe that makes someone happy, then he checks all boxes. Personally I believe he is happy because he follows the path diligently.


He seems to be a bit on the spectrum tbh.


"happiness", in English, seems associated with a pleasant, shallow affect. That seems somewhat irrelevant to your question, inasmuch as you say "I'm under no illusion that someone who is decently far along the path toward 'enlightened' (or whatever word you prefer) should always appear joyful and bubbly.", but I really tend to think that you wouldn't even have had this question if not bound by a language that can't differentiate between the happiness of a pig and, say, eudaimonia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eudaimonia The most common English words for emotion seem associated with the most one-dimensional shallow-affect versions of the emotions available, which is kind of an odd criticism for me to make as a fan of the concise expressive power of English on the whole. For some reason of historical accident, it seems like a relatively poor language for introspection despite its other virtues.


Its an interesting question as I've often wondered the same thing. In one of his conversations, I think I heard him say he knows a few people who don't meditate at all who are happier than him. I would say though that he seems content. Maybe hes just not an outwardly emotional person.


Oh that man can get mad😂😂 Read/listen to any of his “they misinterpreted me” diatribes. He quit twitter for a reason. I have heard him eat his own face explaining all the times he’s said he doesn’t like Trump and that he mispoke…something about the raid on Trump’s house, can’t remember.




My intent was to acknowledge up front that someone's outward appearance need not correlate with their internal experience of happiness, and also that regardless of Sam's internal experience his teachings are still incredibly valuable and helpful. I meant to start this conversation not to dissect him for its own sake, but more to better understand what aspects of my own behavior and emotions might be used as indicators of progress (conclusion: probably none). That all said, point taken. Even if it was not my intent, I agree it is poor form and somewhat dehumanizing to publicly speculate on someone's personal situation. For what it's worth, at the very least I believe that Sam has much deeper experiences of satisfaction and peace than most people on a regular basis.