26 Dec Happiness, success and giving
In the media this last week and featured in the New York Times editorial page yesterday is a new study on happiness by Andrew Oswald of Warwick University in England and Stephen Wu of Hamilton College in NY. It explores quality of life data like weather, crime, traffic, and living costs with an indicator they call happiness and ranks each of the states by it. Missed in the hubbub about the article is that some of our wealthiest states — New York, California, Connecticut — also seem to be the grumpiest states.
It makes me wonder, especially during the holiday season, what really does bring happiness? Is it the quality of life measures suggested by the study? My bet is it’s something deeper. On another level, health, achievement, pleasure, romance, looking good, and not looking stupid seems to be our constant companions, but do these pursuits bring us lasting happiness? Happiness is aided by these things, but satisfaction in them often leads to wanting even more of them, and like a candle consuming itself, it is exhausted through usage. It is not enough. Like Lily Tomlin once said, “the problem with winning the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat.” So if you acquire, position, or manipulate something in your outside for your happiness, isn’t that a frail premise to lean on?
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