Where is your happy place?
Happiness is one of the major pursuits of our existence. For America’s founding people, such as Thomas Jefferson, property made him happy. That’s why, in part, he changed John Locke’s “life, liberty, and property” to “pursuit of happiness.” But our modern consumer culture has proven over and over that the endless pursuit of stuff leads to a receding horizon of contentment and, ultimately, depression.
(Cue Rod Serling Voiceover) Imagine if you will, a peaceful kingdom, a place where everyone is happy. Some people call such a place Shangri La. Some might see it as a utopia (a word that means, ironically, “nowhere”). For others, such a place could exist. Let’s see what such a happy place would be like.
If such a place existed, it would believe, foremost, in environmental protection. It would not be a law or rule or mandate; the people would simply believe that making sure all choices would be made with the future of the environment in mind. Children would be taught from the crib that sustainable resources and re-use of practically every consumer good would be keys to this protection.
There would be little or no fear of death in this happy place. People would be at peace with death being a part of life, they would see it as merely a natural progression into the next phase of our existence. People at peace with death are happier in life, so this would make perfect sense.
And, the happy place would not place an emphasis on material possessions. As we stated earlier, the pursuit of stuff leads to madness in the end, a distinct longing for that which we do not have. Desiring the next, the biggest, the best, the newest whatever consumer article is out there can only lead to disappointment. We will be happier in our hypothetical happy place if we find contentment in what we have, in realizing that we have enough for now, for here, for the moment (Obviously, I’m speaking from a wealthy, western perspective here). All the utopias of the past wished for the lifestyle the west offers today: Indoor plumbing, short work weeks, readily available and cheap food, instant heat and cool, rapid and personal transportation, etc. Yet, we are among the most miserable people who have lived based on life-satisfaction surveys. Thus, our happy place would not emphasize the pursuit of things as a priority.
Lastly, our happy place would not forget the lessons of the past and would practice the good things that the culture taught. New ideas would not be shunned, but they would be incorporated into the existing cultural framework. Age and wisdom would be valued. People would not pursue attempts to become or stay younger. People would be appreciated above position. Kindness, generosity, and love would prevail. Children would be allowed to be children, but adults would welcome and embrace the elegance of growing old.
So, that would be the happiest place on earth if it existed.
Such a place does exist. And they incorporate all the elements listed above. It’s a smaller, land-locked nation in Asia It’s a country that, rather than make fiscal wealth the most important indicator of societal health (using measures like Gross National Product), they have chosen another measurement. They call this measure of national well-being the Gross National Happiness Index.
It’s the nation of Bhutan, and it’s the happiest place on earth.