March 8, 2008

Geography of Bliss

It's just been one of those days, culminating with my ~2-year-old DVD player giving out on me. I have been personally subsidizing Netflix for years, paying monthly subscription fees, but only watching the odd three or four movies a year. Seriously. So why is this player quitting on me? Underworked and underappreciated?

I find that there are often little hot topics in the media, not substantive news stories necessarily, but mainly opinion pieces of similar theme that pop up like buzzwords in a political debate. Over the last few weeks, I keep hearing ads on NPR for The Geography of Bliss, and segments discussing such works as Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy and The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder. It's rather interesting to see these folks opine on happiness in individuals and societies.

A recent 60 minutes segment touted British research showing that Danes are the happiest people in the world. Why? Because they live in a tiny cold country, pay exorbitant taxes, and eat herring for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Danes have low expectations. Set the bar low, they figure and are happy with the idea that things won't get any worse.

Even more interesting is the finding that Italians, with their good food and sunny climate, are among the least happy, echoed in The Geography of Bliss. That certainly flies in the face of the reputed Italian joie de vivre I always thought they possessed. Maybe that's why we don't use a comparable Italian phrase for joie de vivre. I will soon return a report on happiness in East Asia for your reading enjoyment. I know I intend to find happiness there.

Stumbling on Happiness author Dan Gilbert writes that we humans forecast our future and feel we are in control of the uncontrollable. It's that crazy overactive imagination getting us into trouble again.

I am prone to high expectations, and I tend to romanticize the past, resulting in a constant state of wistful nostalgia. But really I'm quite content with a pint of ice cream and a good movie. If only the damn DVD player worked.

1 comment:

Porter said...

Danes are the happiest people in the world not because of herring, or taxes, or country size. Danes are the happiest people in the world simply because they are not Swedes.