January 10, 2013 |
“Ask any one of your friends or neighbours if they are happy and the answer they will probably give is that they have nothing to complain of,” David Malouf writes toward the end of his brief but piercing meditation “The Happy Life: The Search for Contentment in the Modern World” (Pantheon: 96 pp., $19.95). “What they mean is that the good life as previous generations might have conceived it has been attained. Medical science ensures that fewer children die in infancy, that most infectious diseases have been brought under control and the worst of them - smallpox, plague, TB, polio - have in most part of the world been eliminated; that except for a few areas in Africa famine is no longer known among us; that in advanced societies like our own we are cared for by the state from cradle to grave.” You can quibble with the particulars - in the U.S., unlike the author's native Australia, the state resists cradle-to-grave social services and healthcare - but there's no doubt Malouf is onto something: Why, in an advanced culture, where issues of sustenance are for many people no longer a cause for worry, does happiness elude us?
November 4, 2013
Re "The key to a happy society," Column, Nov. 3 Well-being is more than feeling good about oneself, as Michael Hiltzik suggests. Personal happiness is hardly the most important measure of a satisfying life. What is the effect, for example, of being satisfied with our society and its values? How can we determine the price for treating one another well, for having faith in one another, or for being proud of our country and ourselves? I once read about a woman from a Scandinavian country who said about homelessness in the United States, "If there were people living on the streets in my city, I would feel personally ashamed.
May 30, 2013 |
We're No. 6! That's according to new data from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development , which on Tuesday released results of a survey measuring quality of life in 36 industrialized nations. For the last three years, the Paris-based outfit has weighed 11 criteria, including housing, income, jobs, environment, safety and work-life balance. For the third year in a row, Australia was the big winner, thanks in large part to an economy that managed to avoid the global recession of the last decade.
May 19, 2013 |
Imagine that you woke up tomorrow morning to discover $1 million under your mattress. Leaving aside the obvious lumpiness issue, take a moment to think: What would you do with that cash? If you're like many people, contemplating your newfound wealth would probably make you think about one thing above all else: yourself. A growing body of research shows that the mere whiff of money draws out our selfish sides, focusing us on what that money can do for us, and us alone. Perhaps you imagined buying a raft of new possessions: a faster car, a high-end gas grill with rear rotisserie or even a new house, with a fancy rain shower in your commodious bathroom.
September 8, 2003
I find it a sad commentary on the times (and city) we live in that your section so consistently emphasizes those twin obsessions of the rich and famous: the latest cosmetic surgery techniques and the latest trendy exercise fads. The Aug. 25 edition was almost a parody of this pattern. Your top two stories were about a new way for people to artificially look younger than they are through injections; and high-priced boutique gyms for over-scheduled kids. The stories only added to the already warped mind-set of our culture by confirming that we all need to look younger and have more money to be happy.
September 28, 2011 |
Someday in the not-too-distant future, the U.S. departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Justice and Labor could be joined be a new executive branch entity: The Department of Happiness. That's right. There's a growing movement among economists and other researchers to make the psychological well-being of citizens a major government priority. The first step, they say, is to come up with a way to measure a nation's happiness. Ideally they'd like to be able to boil it all down into a single statistic that will resonate with voters - think of it as a mental health equivalent of GDP or the unemployment rate.