happiness

Making Once Enough

About Time is funny, beguiling, and even profound.

Gareth Higgins is a writer and broadcaster from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who has worked as an academic and activist. He is the author of Cinematic States: America in 50 Movies and How Movies Helped Save My Soul: Finding Spiritual Fingerprints in Culturally Significant Films. He blogs at www.godisnotelsewhere.wordpress.com and co-presents “The Film Talk” podcast with Jett Loe at www.thefilmtalk.com. He is also a Sojourners contributing editor. Originally from Northern Ireland, he lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Too Happy?

Bobby McFerrin's "don't worry" optimism sets up some serious cognitive dissonance with the spirituals.

Danny Duncan Collum, a Sojourners contributing writer, teaches writing at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky. His novel White Boy was recently published by Apprentice House.

Is There No Good Economic Reason To Get A Ph.D.?

Maybe someone pursuing a Ph.D. in Liturgical Theology and Ethnomusicology is shouldn't be the one to offer this reflection.

Heck, maybe a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering or in Astrophysics would be a wise economic choice. I can't say.

I've been mulling over some of the news stories out there hyping either end of the (political?) reality of spending more money (and time, let's not forget time) on higher education. It leads me to a couple of questions:

Does the present rate of student debt have a snowball's chance in Tartarus in being repaid? Will the students, especially the so-called "nontradtional student" like myself, actually see a return in their investment?

If you believe NPR, the answer may be "no."

Buddhist Bhutan Fails on its Own Happiness Index

Wouter Tolenaars / Shutterstock.com

Monks rehearsing for the Jakar tsechu which is held the next day on Oct. 23, 2010 in Jakar. Wouter Tolenaars / Shutterstock.com

THIMPHU, Bhutan — In a country that prides itself on measuring quality of life in terms of "Gross National Happiness," this small Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas seems to have a problem: at least half its citizens aren't happy, according to its own measurements.

While more than 90 percent of the 7,142 respondents said they were "happy" in a recent government survey, only 49 percent of people fit the official definition of total happiness by meeting at least six of the survey's nine criteria.

Bhutan's fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, coined the phrase GNH in 1972 on the belief that people's happiness did not depend on the nation's economic wealth alone.

GNH indicators -- as opposed to more traditional measures like a nation's gross domestic product based on economic activity -- recognize nine components of happiness: psychological well-being, ecology, health, education, culture, living standards, time use, community vitality and good governance.

Just How Free?

"Freedom." Photo illustration via Wylio http://bit.ly/xAJy0A

"Freedom." Photo illustration via Wylio http://bit.ly/xAJy0A

Just how free are we?

Freedom is a word often used by politicians, economists and others in positions of power/authority as a byword for happiness. The more freedom we have, the happier we are. Whether this is actually the case, freedom is something that oftentimes may not be particularly tangible.

Freedom House attempts to help us understand what freedom actually looks like in its annual publication, Freedom In The World, with the 2012 edition published today. And their focus? The Arab Uprisings and the impact they have had, and continue to have, on the world.

From the top-line data that Freedom House has collected, the news isn’t good. Despite seeing “the most significant challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism” during the past year, only 12 countries actually recorded an overall improvement in their freedoms, in comparison to 26 countries that saw their freedoms lessened.

Love and Marriage: A Kardashian Cautionary Tale

Wedding cakes at a bridal "expo" in Seattle.

Wedding cakes at a bridal "expo" in Seattle. Image via Wiki Commons.

It’s tempting for us to scoff at Kris and Kim’s downfall, but the reality is that their marriage failed at least in part because of our society’s views of nuptial bliss. That makes us all implicitly responsible, and it encourages us all to do a better job of loving our neighbors well, not just on their wedding day but on all the days that follow. 

Can More Taxes Make People Happier?

A new study says that might just be how it works, as long as the taxes are progressive. The study was conducted in 54 nations with over 59,000 respondents. The polling tracked the expressed well being of respondents and then checked for correlations in taxation systems. The end result? On average, those who lived in a country with a highly progressive tax system reported a higher level of quality of life, more positive daily experiences, and fewer negative ones. Overall, people are happier the more progressive their tax system is.

It's an academic paper and the authors don't jump to any political conclusions, but they do provide at least one plausible explanation. The study notes that simply increasing government spending does not increase overall happiness. But people are happier in countries with higher levels of progressive taxation because they are more satisfied with basic government services, such as quality of education and health care.

Let Us Be Clear: The Debt Ceiling Crisis is Purely Artificial

We have come to an impasse in the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling because of several conceptual errors in our public discourse. These errors were most glaring in the remarks recently delivered by Speaker of the House John Boehner in his response to President Obama. The largest conceptual error is the idea that the government of a constitutional representative democracy is different from the people. Boehner said, "You know I've always believed the bigger the government, the smaller the people."

What does this mean? The government is composed of the people, and if people are paying attention and voting according to their own interests, the government ought to work toward the happiness of the people. The problem is that too many Americans have bought into this conceptual error that the government is some kind of leviathan, a monster that exists to take away their liberties. This is nonsense. A correction of another conceptual error in Boehner's presentation makes my point.

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