SAT Essay - Is it best to determine how wise people are by how happy they are?

Below are essay prompts from the most recent SAT administration in May 2013.

Prompt 1

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.

People use the term "wisdom" to mean many things. They describe someone as wise if that person is intelligent, well-informed, or capable of making good decisions. These descriptions, however, are not really useful in distinguishing wise people from unwise ones. Happiness is a better measure of wisdom: a wise person is a happy person. Even the most intelligent people should not be called wise if they are not happy.

Assignment: Is it best to determine how wise people are by how happy they are? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

2013-5-8 7:44:11

Posted by DoctorZ | 阅读全文 | 回复(4) | 引用通告 | 编辑

Re:SAT Essay - Is it best to determine how wise people are by how happy they are?

Oh the happy happy happiness, the soul and goal of our lives.  I believe happiness and wisdom are intimately related. Happiness comes from learning, understanding about the truth of our lives. In a way, happiness is learning and wisdom itself.

There are many wisdoms and truth in our lives. For example, wisdom can be knowing the fact that happiness comes from seeing others have a good experience because of a service that you have done for them. I believe that service can be as simple as saying hello and as fun as dedicating six months of rehearsal towards a two-week play. The first time I encountered this philosophy was through my brother’s service to me.

It was the night before elections. To my fifteen-year-old mind, whatever would come of the next day would change the world forever. I was running for Sophomore Vice President.

I had the perfect skit – a boxing match between me, the incredible Mustache Man and rival Northridge High’s Malicious Muff. The fight choreographed popular moves as seen in Dodge Ball, Iron Man, and Super Smash Brothers. At the end, I would bring Layton High the victory with my signature move, the Power-Punch from Hot Rod.

My friend Cheyenne and I rehearsed the fight for hours, but the fight would not be a fight without music and sound effects. This is where my brother came in. He worked night and day on that soundtrack – literally. To my fifteen-year-old body, I could not even begin to comprehend staying up all night, but when the track was not finished the night before the skit, my brother completed the unfathomable. What more? When my computer’s disk burner went out at 6 in the morning, he spent a college student’s week’s wages to replace it.

Why would he go to all that trouble? Because he knew out of all the other important things he could be doing, that this was important to me. He knew because it was once important to him. Having graduated from Layton High just a year earlier, he knew what it was like to be in the limelight. He watched me idolize him as he starred in the high school’s most popular rock band and became president of the catchiest club of the class. He knew how fun high school could be and he wanted me to have as great an experience.

I ended up losing the election, but that day changed my world forever. The lesson he taught me became my core belief. But it wasn’t until I had a similar opportunity that I really understood why he cared so much.

What did it take for me to understand? Musical theatre. I and the rest of the cast would rehearse every day afterschool for 6 months all for what? The chance to perform a play eight times. As I came out on that stage for the first time and listened to the roaring laughter, I was filled with joy. By the end of the play the audience broke into tears, and so had we. What had happened? We had the sweet opportunity of giving them an unforgettable theatre moment – a moment to laugh, reflect, and weep.


2013-5-8 11:21:00

Posted by doctorzhang | 个人主页 | 引用 | 返回 | 删除 | 回复

Re:SAT Essay - Is it best to determine how wise people are by how happy they are?

In wisdom lies true understanding about happiness. Wisdom comes in many ways and many forms. Wisdom is truth and seeking and believing truth in our lives, such as honesty. I believe in waking up each morning and deciding that the day will be filled with honesty and happiness. When I was in high school, I went through a rebellious stage that many, including physiatrists and doctors would, and did say was a little more extreme than most adolescents. I had everything I could ask for in life, my parents provided for our family very well, but still for some reason I was not happy, although on the outside it looked as though I was. Because of this unhappiness rooted somewhere deep inside of me, I chose to do things that were unfair, not only to myself, but to everyone around me.


For example, one winter vacation when my parents were going to Florida to visit their parents, I told them I would be in Vermont with my best friend skiing and having fun in the snow for the week. As most parents, mine had some trust in me at the time, and let me go with a few rules and regulations. Well, that week came and my parents were off to sunny Florida, and I was off to my house. Yes, that’s right, my house. I never went to Vermont, nor did I have any intentions of going. I was going to stay home for the week, and have fun on my own, and with friends. Well, the events of that week were all too memorable; until I hit the dear. Driving one night to pick up one of my friends from a party, a dear ran out in the middle of the road and hit my car. The only thing flashing through my mind was that I was caught, and my parents were going to find out I never really went to Vermont. But no, even after that event I lied and told them I was in Vermont when it happened. When they returned home from Florida everything was fine for a day, I thought I had gotten away with everything! But soon to come was the day they found out I had lied about the whole trip.


I was grounded for months, the car taken away for longer than that, but the worst part of the whole experience was the look on both my parents’ faces, the look of frustration, sadness, and hurt. They could have taken away everything that belonged to me that day, but the thing that still would have hurt the most was the fact that I knew how much I hurt them, and how disappointed they were in me.


From that day on, my parents and I still got into fights occasionally; as does every child and their parents, but growing up from then to now, and experiencing things with a whole new outlook truly made me believe in truth and happiness. Each day I wake up, no matter how bad the day before was, whether I have a car, or no car, and I make a pact with myself that on this day I will be happy, and tell the truth no matter how badly it will affect me. My parents are the two most special, honest, trustworthy people I know, and because of them and their profound outlook on life, I have learned so many great lessons, and because of them I have learned to believe that great things will come to you as long as you are honest with yourself and others; and from that comes great happiness.

2013-5-8 11:16:58

Posted by doctorzhang | 个人主页 | 引用 | 返回 | 删除 | 回复

Re:SAT Essay - Is it best to determine how wise people are by how happy they are?

I believe happiness ultimately comes from wisdom – seeking and learning truth from our lives. Wisdoms come in many forms and come from many sources, such as, believe it or not, sadness. The other night I felt overcome by sadness as I reflected upon all the suffering of this world.


In many ways, I have a perfect life.  Nevertheless, a part of me will always be sad as long as there is suffering in this world. Life is bittersweet.  And that’s OK with me.  Happiness without sadness would not be complete…as long as suffering persists.


I sat with the feelings of sadness, gazing at the dark night sky.  I didn’t try to push them away.  Quite the contrary, I felt empowered by them.


Usually, we want to move away from sadness as quickly as possible.


We’re encouraged to divert ourselves from the emotion by engaging in physical activity, imagining pleasant and relaxing experiences, or looking for humor in a situation that makes us sad.  Some people, who are naturally empathetic, have decided to protect themselves from sadness and other untoward emotions by not watching the news.  I can understand why.  There’s even a danger of becoming hardened and developing “compassion fatigue” in the face of overwhelming tragedy like the recent disasters in Japan.


But I say, let your heart be broken into a million pieces.  You will be all the better for it.  Here’s why.


Sadness is not always as bad as it’s made out to be.  In fact, sadness can be the start of your journey directly to the heart of true happiness.  Here are 3 ways that sadness can help and empower you.


1.  Sadness Has the Power to Introduce a Crack in Our Idea of Reality


There is not a single person in this world that can escape from suffering.  Suffering is the fundamental characteristic of the way we lead our lives.  Failing to see our true nature, our life ends up a constant dance of attachment and aversion.  This is precisely what brings unhappiness our way.


I like this.  I don’t like that.  I want this.  I don’t want that.”


There may be transitory moments of happiness when things go our way, we have an enjoyable sensory experience, or acquire an entrancing new possession.  But this happiness is not a long lasting one.  All the tension of striving for what we want and rejecting everything else just brings more complications and more suffering.  We’re rarely satisfied for more than a moment.  Then we’re on to achieving a new goal, having the next experience, getting a better possession, or finding the right relationship.


How about trying this – when sadness pops up, instead of running away, let her wake you up.  Sadness has the power to introduce a crack in our limited and limiting version of reality.  Maybe life isn’t all about wanting, getting, accomplishing, and possessing. Maybe there is another way.


And even if you know this already, sadness can sing you an even deeper song.


A moment of sadness can be marvelous indeed. You might see clearly for the very first time. Or you might get fantastically woken up once again.  Either way, let sadness spark your life with new meaning and purpose.


2. Let Your Heart Break Into a Million Pieces


When sadness breaks open our heart, we become fully human.


By having the courage to touch  our own pain and suffering, we can touch and feel the pain and suffering of the entire world.  We see:  your suffering and my suffering are the same.  Suffering is a common thread that unites all of humanity.  From recognizing this simple truth, a profound feeling of interconnectedness can arise.  This sense of interconnection can bring about an unspeakable joy.  It can ignite the wish to bring happiness to all others.


3.  Nothing Ever Stays the Same for Even a Moment


Sadness comes when things change – a relationship ends, someone dies, we’re fired from a job, illness descends, a friend is physically hurt, a disaster happens.  Sadness introduces us to impermanence and can help us learn to let go.


Change is the only constant in life.  Until we learn to accept change gracefully, we’ll always suffer.  There’s a blessing in embracing the beauty of impermanence.  Through doing so, we will come to value every precious moment of this life and live in a far saner and more fulfilling way.

2013-5-8 10:46:55

Posted by doctorzhang | 个人主页 | 引用 | 返回 | 删除 | 回复

Re:SAT Essay - Is it best to determine how wise people are by how happy they are?

Some related research for your background –



"The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts," said Marcus Aurelius. If he's right, the path to well-being is straightforward: Avoid low-quality thoughts!


Sadly for a long time, it's far from clear that he's right. Decades of research into the relationship between reasoning ability and well-being have failed to find a clear link between this duo. But now comes a ray of hope for high-quality thinkers--a study suggesting that Marcus Aurelius is right so long as you define "quality of thought" carefully. And the study comes with a good pedigree--it will be published in the prestigious Journal of Experimental Psychology and features the eminent psychologist Richard Nisbett among its co-authors.


What's correlated with well-being, say Nisbett, Igor Grossman, and three other authors, isn't reasoning ability in the abstract but rather "wise reasoning"--reasoning that is "pragmatic," helping us "navigate important challenges in social life."


So, for starters, how did the researchers measure wise reasoning? Subjects in this study read a series of accounts of social conflicts and Dear-Abby-like dilemmas and then, in oral interviews, were invited to discuss how the stories might unfold in the future. Their responses were rated along such dimensions as "considering the perspectives of people involved in the conflict," "recognizing uncertainty and the limits of knowledge," and "recognizing the importance of ... compromise between opposing viewpoints." These ratings were the basis for a "wise reasoning" score.


For each of the subjects a second score was calculated that was intended to measure well-being. Its components included reported satisfaction with their lives and with their social relationships and a tendency toward positive expression.


It turned out that the two scores were correlated: the wiser people were, the higher their well-being.


Three interesting wrinkles:


[1] The older you get, the stronger the correlation. Wise young adults didn't exhibit much higher well-being than unwise young adults, but wise senior citizens had considerably higher well-being than their unwise peers. (Compare the slopes of the lines in the graph above.) So if you're young, cultivating wisdom is mainly a long-term investment. (That's probably a weak sales pitch for wisdom, since young people aren't known for thinking long term. I'm tempted to say they lack the wisdom to seek wisdom, but that would mean departing from this study's definition of wisdom, so never mind.)


[2] A second age-related issue: Well-being increases with age, and so does wise reasoning. Is it possible that getting older increases well-being and wisdom independently--that the wisdom itself has no effect on well-being? After all, gray hair increases with age and so does joint stiffness, but gray hair doesn't cause joint stiffness.


Through a statistical technique that I don't claim to grasp, the authors conclude that the answer is mixed. Part of the increase in well-being associated with age is caused by growing wisdom, but part of the increase happens for some other reason. That is, wisdom, is a "partially mediating" variable between age and well-being.


[3] Another causality question: Leaving aside the age issue, how should we interpret the general correlation between wise reasoning and well-being? Assuming a causal link between these two variables, does the wisdom lead to the well-being or does the well-being lead to the wisdom?


The latter is certainly plausible. When I'm in a good mood, it's easier to consider the perspectives of other people, and easier to focus on compromise--two components of wisdom as defined here. And presumably if I were in a good mood more often--if I had an enduringly high sense of well-being--my ability to thus exercise wisdom would remain pretty high.


The authors consider this question and offer grounds for doubting that it's the well-being that causes the wisdom, but they concede that the issue isn't completely settled.


I'm guessing the answer is a little of both: Wisdom leads to well-being, and well-being paves the way for wisdom--and, in particular, for wise action, not just a capacity for wise reasoning.


If that's true, then you can imagine getting swept up in a virtuous circle: Acting wisely reduces conflict in your life and strengthens your social relationships, and this fosters a sense of well-being that makes it easier to act wisely, and so on. But there's also the vicious circle scenario--a downward spiral featuring growing unhappiness, commensurately unwise action, deeper unhappiness, and so on.


The virtuous circle scenario is certainly more appealing. And it sounds like it wouldn't be that hard. But I'm old enough to know better.

2013-5-8 7:48:55

Posted by doctorzhang | 个人主页 | 引用 | 返回 | 删除 | 回复


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