My wife is reading The Geography of Bliss and is almost through Switzerland, a terminally happy country. It can’t be the weather. Their hottest month of the year is July where the average high is 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It seems the Swiss just don’t care about things like warmth or vitamin D. Nevertheless, nobody leaves Switzerland.
The author discusses some of the things that make people happy. People with a healthy sex life are apparently happier than people without—duh?—people with sun burns are less happy, but people who get more sun are happier—why are the Swiss so happy?—and Republicans are happier than democrats—not touching that with a ten foot pole; however, the author focuses on the places where people are happiest. What about the stuff that enhances happiness?
We’ll forgo the discussion of happy people because, to be quite frank, I do not like people. A person may be fine, but people are generally horrible. Everyone reading this discussion is probably a critical thinker; mostly innovative and creative; intelligent and understanding; supportive and fun to be around despite our religious, political or metaphysical differences—admittedly, there is a comparatively small following right now. However, if we were surrounded by a bunch of people, we would drown in the rude religious ignorance, moral superiority, and utter lack of awareness that is people. Unfortunately, we are outnumbered. There are more people on Team Stupid, so we are out numbered.
It is more likely than not that what is just as important as where in the happiness battle. This is not a discussion of material goods, although it could be in some cases. There are enough studies proving wealthy people are not necessarily happier than those in the middle class. However, a concert pianist forced to live a life without a piano might be less happy because of it. Once basic needs like water, food, and shelter are met, some other what items which play a role in my personal happiness include (in as close as I can get to an order of importance—although, most are just too close to judge):
- My wife, in as few clothes as possible—like, if I could re-create Blue Lagoon (1980, of course) with the two of us and internet access, we’d be set for life.
- Not needing to wear shoes.
- Not needing to wear a shirt.
- Mayonnaise—which should not surprise anyone.
- Friends and family—a distinction more difficult with each passing year. Oh, and don’t feel slighted because you come after mayo. Did you think you make me happier than mayo?
- Not being around people—present readership already described as persons excluded.
- 72 degrees Farenheit at night and 85 degrees during the day—or possibly as high as 100 with no humidity.
- Sun with intermittent rain at night.
- The ability to hike, swim, walk, ride and run in no particular order of importance.
- Hot sauce or some other spicy creation.
- A guitar, piano, harmonica, or other instrument—I’m not picky, although you might be until I learn to play.
- Fish, seafood, oysters, coconut, mango, peas, chicken, eggs, corn chips, and bananas.
- Rum, beer, wine—in that order.
- Limes—because they go so well with the rum.
- Internet access and a laptop—to communicate with several persons, but not with any people.
- A warm ocean, beach, waves and surf.
- A dog—we really miss not having a dog.
- Books, lots and lots of books.
- Music—which perhaps should accompany number 11, but because I can only play guitar, and not very well at that, this seems like it should stand on its own.
- The open concept design for houses—how did this not become popular a century ago?
- Scoring higher than 85% on Sleep Cycle—which I did for the first time last Sunday night.
It seems a little materialistic in places, but few of these items are required every day. Sure, items 1, 2, 4, 9, 12, 13, 14, and 15 are sort of daily necessities, but most of the others just need to be present some or most of the time. It seems like long life and cheeseburgers should be included, but if the rest are present, those last two should take care of themselves. Can we get them all in one location? Maybe. Maybe not.
Eric Weiner, the author of The Geography of Bliss, probably focussed on locations because its easier to summarize the data. But if I can paraphrase that old, English dude from the Mission Impossible movies, “Life isn’t mission impossible Mr. Hunt, it is mission difficult. Therefore, it should be a walk in the park for us.” Here in India we can normally find or import items 1-5, 7-8, some of 9, 10-11, bits of 12, 13-15, 18, 19, and 21. Unfortunately, number 6 is pretty important and the list of unhappiness items—honking, poor air quality, perpetual dust—is still pending. That’s where attitude is key.
Now its your turn for introspection. Let me know what things play a role in your happiness? If it appears in some future blog or article, it will be by coincidence and totally unattributable. Unless fame and fortune are on your list, then I’m happy to name anyone who wants credit.
My wife just started the Breakfast Club soundtrack. Item number 19 might need to be moved up the list. We can’t stop trying to find happiness wherever we are.