Why I’m Not Sad That I Can’t Fly

I remember one time having a conversation with Daniel Kahneman, one of the founders of behavioral economics, about the topic of happiness and emotional adaptation, in the context of chronic disability. We were discussing emotional impact of experiencing a limb amputation. Kahneman pointed out that it is the loss of the limb that is really important, more so than the absence of the limb. Remember him discussing why he’s not unhappy about lacking a third arm, even though such an arm could be quite useful. His point was it’s hard to miss something you’ve never had.
I just came across a similar sentiment, when reading Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree. Here is his take on the topic:

“If most people could flap their arms and fly, the inability to do so would be a disability. If most people were geniuses, those of moderate intelligence would be disastrously disadvantaged.”

Nicely said!

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