national geographic

Posts Tagged ‘national geographic’

The Gift Of Tongues

Have we become harder to impress?

I posit yes.

When the average Josephine is tooling about town with more technology than we used to win World War II, it’s understandably hard to really wow with incremental advancements in the realm of flying cars, the search for intelligent life on Mars and the like. On that note, it’s hard to wow with any news. Humans are now consuming more information on the daily than ever before. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to take a moment to glean some perspective.

Here’s one worthy of pause: A crack team of linguists from National Geographic recently stumbled upon a new language in north-eastern India. Yes, in this 21st of centuries, we’re still discovering new languages. This is the best kind of bananas!

Koro, the language in question, was not the target of the team’s search. They were on an expedition to document some known Tibeto-Burman languages at risk of extinction. While working the other two, the Nat Geo crew heard a third totally unfamiliar tongue that altogether changed the nature of the journey.

Like half of the world’s 7000ish(!) actively spoken languages, Koro is on the cusp of going the way of the wooly mammoth. It isn’t written and less than 2000 people in India’s Arunachal Pradesh state are considered fluent.

According to National Geographic Fellow Gregory Anderson, the team would have never picked up on the patois if they had waited another 10 years. Had he been asked, Anderson would have recommended you head outside immediately and make the next incredible discovery as soon as humanly possible.

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.”