Happiness Gurus and Salvation

We do not need statistics from expert researchers and famous professors to tell us that in spite of all our progress and economic well-being, happiness continue to elude many of us. The ordinary person in the street could verify this reality. Notwithstanding, many prominent people have had a conversion of heart by acknowledging that there is more to life than making-money – especially since banks have been gambling it away, in mind boggling sums. And do not be fooled: lessons have not been learnt!

Now the recently launched “Action for Happiness movement” with its own web-page has come to our rescue. Their intention is to help us counter the rising tide of excessive individualism. The aim of the group is to request from those who have signed up, a personal commitment to be able to produce “more happiness and less misery”. How commendable!

It is not insignificant that the people who are behind this project and those who make up its Board are intellectually and materially well-endowed. While there is certainly the need for people to find happiness and to work towards making others happy, one is struck by the very privileged nature of this whole undertaking.

The call is to make happiness contagious so that it will spread like wildfire! But I do wonder how much this will achieve in countering “the epidemic of lowliness and isolation”. For starters, what we mean by happiness will certainly vary and will be measured differently. The webpage of “Action for Happiness” does have a number of practical tips for in putting things “that matter most”.

Yet some of it, for example, their suggested ten (10) keys to happier living is quite revealing in terms of its middle class ethos and very privileged take on happiness. I wonder if these colleagues know the world of poor people in the UK or have them in mind! I am sure poor people will know about giving, relating, exercising, appreciating, trying out etc. But such knowledge is not necessarily by choice, but as a result of the harsh realities of their existence, mostly caused by an economic system on which the rich thrive. They come to such by the forced realities of their circumstances, largely caused by an economic system that dehumanises people – and not by choice!

It is here that “action for happiness” should do some more work – meaning that happier living may necessitate giving up on higher incomes and our present economic model! Putting well-being on the agenda must be a costly undertaking as we reorient our lives around God’s economy, otherwise we end up bowing down to the obsessive idol of wealth, and happiness becomes another item to be sold. The reality is that almost every store, supermarket and shop offers happiness assuring us that they are working for our happiness – not their shareholders stock price and for enormous profit margin!

Action for happiness? Well there are already lots of tips in the sacred scriptures. Take the teachings and example of Jesus as one model: he offers a counter version of the dominant version, challenging life prioritised by competition, efficiency and survival of the fittest. His choice is simple: an offer between a life dominated by a consumer/market world or one that trusts in God’s faithfulness and takes the Divine (awe, mystery etc) seriously! Indeed, happiness here is a qualitatively different way of seeing our world, our priorities, lifestyles. So, “consider the lilies…” is more than a minor off the cuff statement: it is full of possibilities as it is demanding of radical re-orienting of our lives.

© copyright May 16, 2011

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