Double Down: Life, Liberty, And That Pursuit

Double Down: Life, Liberty, And That Pursuit

Happiness. What is it? A warm gun? A subversive comedy? An elusive knave?

I say nay. Happiness is everywhere, everyday, though Morley will argue there’s a higher concentration in Denmark, where Great Danes are paid to go to school, paid to take maternity and paternity leave, and don’t worry about bills when they’re ill. Some years back, Denmark — where income taxes are at about 50% — was rated the happiest country in the world. These Untied States came in at 23–below Canada and Costa Rica, but above Iraq and Pakistan. Morley finds that some of the unhappiest zip codes in America are the wealthiest–a product, he says, of the “more is better” psychology. As he puts it, “Wanting it all is a bacterium that stays with us from youth to old age. Wanting: a bigger house, a fancier car, more stuff. And when we get more, there’s always someone with more stuff who’s more unhappy.”

Evidently, realistic expectations, friends, and family are the stuff of happiness. Who would’ve thunk?

Actually, I feel like it’s common knowledge. Just as we all know that the American Dream is a saucy mistress, deep down we’re all aware that happiness has little to nothing to do with that $. It’s just hard to realign our lives to the pursuit of happiness when you look out your window and mostly see the pursuit of cash money. We need to be reminded.

Recently, a couple of non-pretentious academic types took to the PBS NewsHour to do just that. As it were, both husband and wife recently published books on the prime pursuit–not the dubious self-help variety, but the empirical stuff:

Adorable, aren’t they? Hansel and Gretel make the same argument as Morley: The American Dream is making everybody miserable. They also propose a sea change of thought: What if government used a different yardstick to measure a nation’s well-being? What if we had a GHI (Gross Happiness Index) instead of a GNP (Gross National Product).

Laughable, right?

Tell that to Bhutan.

The folk out there in the little landlocked-nation-that-could had a king that proclaimed, “Gross national happiness is more important than gross national product.” He said it, he believed it, and no one Louis XVIed him for it. His mostly Buddhist Himalayan kingdom, sandwiched between India and China, has taken to the plan swimmingly–unsurprisingly emphasizing family, friends, and some wicked zen meditation.

Boyd Matson visited the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” on assignment for National Geographic (probably a happy dude) and spoke to a Bhutanese brother who broke it down,

“In our most beautiful places, we build temples and monasteries and everybody goes there. In your most beautiful places, you build five-star resorts and only the very rich go there.”

Goodosphere in no way endorses this pinko-speak, but that whole inclusive, family-based, pastoralism may be working out in Bhutan. They’re the happiest nation in Asia, and among the happiest people in the world. There’s no way we’re reverting back whence we came anytime soon, but maybe it would be good to just reflect on what matters most everyday, prioritize.

As my man Isaac put it, “My friends, my habits, my family, they mean so much to me.”

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 16th, 2010 at 10:05 am and is filed under Greater Good. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to “Double Down: Life, Liberty, And That Pursuit”

  1. Norris Says:

    August 16th, 2010 at 12:19 pm


  2. Ken Zigler Says:

    August 16th, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    How true my friend, how true. I’ve just been reading a book called “What Happy People Know” and I (and the author) must agree. I will add: Only love can conquer fear and fear is the root basis of much unhappiness.

  3. Andy Babkes Says:

    August 16th, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Great post, Sean, my man! This is what blogging is all about – getting the good word out to the peoples! I hope this article (and this wonderful blog-o-site) reaches the masses!

  4. Sean Rameswaram Says:

    August 17th, 2010 at 10:17 am