Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Are We Happy Yet? LOL@Monticello

"...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."



Are you feeling happy yet? LOLThomasJ@Monticello.

We're not talking about summer weather happy, or that acceptance letter to Harvard, or your newest app kind of happy. We're talking about the Big Happiness, National Happiness, possibly even Global Happy.

A man named Nick Marks has written a book called The Happiness Manifesto. No, I am not making it up. What makes us happy, or, in Nick's term, builds National Accounts of Well-Being?

-  a sense of individual vitality.
-  undertaking activities which are meaningful, engaging and make us feel competent and autonomous.
-  having a stock of inner resources to help us cope when things go wrong and be resilient to change beyond our immediate control.

Dear Nick, all fine and dandy, but have you considered getting some friends and colleagues to talk to, who are not college professors or living in geodesic domes in New Mexico? Because, Nick, out here, beyond the Faculty Moat, in the villages and among the common villagers, we use a different list. And, on that list, at the tippy-top, not just on one list, but on every villager's list is the same source of Big Happy:

1. A billion. No, Make that Two Billion! More than enough moolah to protect us from those central bankers and economists in suits who are busy getting a sense if individual vitality, while undertaking activities which are meaningful, engaging... and make us feel completely incompetent and totally dependent on them. Yikes.

Tennis Whites
Happiness. What were T. Jefferson & The Brotherly Loves thinking Happiness was 236 years ago? A tankard of cider? A complete setting for eight of Paul Revere silverware? Chasing Sally Hemmings into the ....ahem!

Meanwhile, here's a list of other things that might make us happy today:
2.   Waiters who will not say "No problem" even once during our meals.
3.   A six-week presidential campaign without commercials.
4.   Healthcare statements composed in real English/Spanish, which don't scare us like Norman Bates in Psycho.
5.   Banks that hire people who know how to count really really well.
6.   Wars lasting less than ten years and costing less than a trillion. Make that two trillion.
7.   A Sabrett in every pot, a vehicle smaller than our neighbor's, a house that floats, mayors who need the salary.
8.   An end to the entire concept of the thing known as "college."
9.   Interesting, but imperfect children.
10. Amusing, yet decidedly imperfect parents.

You see, Charlie Brown, Happiness is not just a warm puppy, although, admittedly, that is still a very nice thing. Happiness, it turns out, is a complicated idea. Even a warm puppy must have a home, food in the bowl, affordable trips to the vet, someone to understand when he makes a "mistake" on the new carpet, and someone with a steady income to keep the whole happy warm-thing going.

Our age may be more about discovering many things that, in the end, do not make us happy: seemingly perfect candidates for office, reality TV, our drive to make heroes out of the dorkiest set of dull billionaires in history, having Einstein's brain (Google) but none of his whimsy, and photo apps. Just to name a few.

Delta Blues
Let's by all means raise the flags, fire the cannons, strike up the bands, parade around the greens, recite the Declaration on the podiums, celebrate Life, Liberty and...wait for it...the PURSUIT of Happiness.

There it is. It is the pursuit that counts. TJ & Co made no promises. The finding part is still up to us.

I'm betting that we'll find it lurking in the details, and in being helpful to  someone other than ourselves in their own pursuit.

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