Sunday, May 6, 2018

Working on happiness

We have been watching "The Good Karma Hospital" on Acorn TV. An Indian physician who is a young woman accepts a position at the Indian hospital to leave Britain and an unsatisfactory life behind.  We also meet an elderly couple from Britain who have traveled to that part of India so that the woman can die there. Her longtime husband loves her and is somewhat adrift after her death. He is not sure what he wants to be or where he wants to be.  

He is there during the famous Holi festival, the one where people hurl handfuls of brightly colored power at each other.  He is not young. He is certainly not in a festive mood. A few days later, he leaves his hotel to find the street filled with marching celebrants.  "Oh, great," he says,"another $#@! festival".

His remark reminded me that most things can be overdone.  We can idolize festivals, celebrations, appreciations much as we can idolize our favorite team or money or a cause we care about.  I saw the book "Happiness: Notes from a New Science" and have read through it. It got my attention because the economist who wrote the book goes to some lengths to examine the idea that life is more than monetary wealth.  He focuses his attention on what science has to say about being happy and how to get that way.

Personally, I like being happy but I am reluctant to lock on anything as totally good.  Given the right circumstances, I wouldn't be happy and, at least for a while, I wouldn't want to be.  I think some people are adroit at asking themselves questions such as "What right do I have to be happy when there are innocent children starving in the world?"  I think it would be good to help such children but maybe I don't have to be unhappy while helping. As we mature, we see how true it is that things change. Some of those changes are quite abrupt.  I seem to be struck by the plight of this child or the tragedy of that woman but I am able to recover from the horror. I may be better able to help if I am not too mired in unhappiness.

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