Archive for November 29th, 2011

The Happy Planet Index

November 29, 2011

Final report presentations begin today in SOL, with Brian on the  World Happiness Index (aka Happy Planet Index, or HPI). Makes sense to me. Robert Kennedy said it best: GNP “measures everything except that which makes life worth living.” Nic Marks is right, “happiness should not cost the earth.”


His TED Talk is one of many addressing the theme “What Makes Us Happy?” including Amy Purdy‘s remarkable account of overcoming the loss of her legs as a teenager, Daniel Kahneman on experience and memory, Randy Pausch on achieving childhood dreams, Daniel Gilbert on how bad we are at predicting what will make us happy, Chip Conley on Bhutan, the” joie de vivre index,” and measuring happiness (“What really counts is when we use our numbers to truly take into account our people”-tr], Steve Jobs’ Stanford  commencement speech urging the inestimable value of impassioned work (“Don’t settle!”), and lots of Buddhists (including Matthieu Ricard).

Eric Weiner, the Geography of Bliss author, has written an intriguing essay on his current God project which includes this observation: “I know from my research into happiness that it is our binding, our inter-dependence, that fulfills us.” [IcelandIceland Reduxhappiness is]

We’ve heard that from so many sources now. Have any happiness researchers concluded that man is an island, or that we must imagine Crusoe happy? We always picture Sisyphus* struggling with his boulder alone, but if not at the office he must have had a strong support network at home. That may be what Woody Allen’s Professor Levy was missing. The point is to live, and (as Viktor Frankl said) to live meaningfully. [Frankl, Why to believe in others]


Also of interest, and to close the circle as our course winds down: “Just how powerful IS positive thinking? Ehrenreich on Sunday Morning”

*Last word goes to Camus: “Real generosity towards the future consists in giving all to the present.” [Generosity23]


NOTE TO STUDENTS: 1. All presenters, please let us know your topic and suggested readings by tomorrow if possible. 2. I’ve begun reading Sisela Bok’s Exploring Happiness. It’s really good so far, I recommend it. (When this class comes around again in a couple of years, I’ll probably require it.)