Saturday, Jul. 02, 2005 - 3:44 a.m.
Cost of the War in Iraq
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Happiness or the Lack of It
Hhhhhmmmmm, it is fascinating, this study on happiness I just heard about on the radio. Apparently the happiest swedes are rightwing. And the happiest swedes are relatively well-off, healthy, in a couple (not single) and religious. (Not so surprisingly these things often go together with rightwing. Probably the rightwing would like to suggest the wingness comes first. I suspect one is more likely to be a socialist if one is poor and disenfranchised to start with.)
Now none of that is very surprising. The old "money doesn't bring happiness" is lovely when one is speaking of rich people who have more money than time or friends or love of life. But having enough money to do what what needs (clothes, housing, food) and what one wants (education, presents for your kids, sports equipment, a week off at the cottage) definitely does increase happiness. I know. I was always broke, and pridefully impoverished. But when I actually had enough money to pay for a meal out when downtown with friends without having to eat tomato soup at home for the following week, it was a great thing. When I had the money to take classes in the things that interested me, buy clothes for occasions I wanted to indulge in (going dancing, taking flamenco lessons), travel to places I wanted to see and see people I missed, money to try new recipes, buy raw materials for hobbies, plants and tools to garden with, magazine subscriptions, veterinary care and dental appointments, I was much much happier. It was an amazing shift in my personality, not having to bitch about $, or explain why I couldn't join friends doing something, or call various institutions to arrange alternative payment plans. So yeah, money does bring happiness to an extent.
In a couple? Well, other than bad couples... and i don't think there is that much societal pressure in Sweden to stay in bad couples... it is very nice to have someone to do things with, talk to, share experiences and memories and plans, have physical contact regularly, maybe a laugh or two, and let's not forget how much faster things get done with two sets of hands instead of one. yeah, a couple.
And religion. Well, I guess it makes people happy to have the world explained. And to decide that the world is going as it should. Unless of course you are one of them doomsday people who feel that if you aren't constantly writing and picketing and harrassing people, then abortionists will take over the world, homosexuals and jews will bring down civilisation, liberal atheists will invite satan to take over. I suppose that wouldn't increase happiness a heck of alot. But lack of existential anst could increase happiness measurably I am sure.
On the other hand I found this quote: "In his profound and moving book, Man's Search for Meaning, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, himself a survivor of the Nazi death camps, wrote that, 'Suffering is not always a pathological phenomenon.... Suffering may well be a human achievement, especially if it grows out of existential frustration.'
Yup. One actually can grow as a person oneself, and in regards to ones' fellow human beings and the world by having existential frustration, not being happy and fulfilled all the time. I once had a happy girlfriend. Sure I sometimes envy her ability to take things in stride. To not question or prevaricate. To go joyfully and calmly forward and onward.
On the other hand, she was one of the least understanding people I knew. She could not understand why one might fight to improve oneself in life since she had never needed to do so. She didn't understand why one might have to work overtime to pay for an education that one could scarcely afford, since she neither needed a job, nor worry about her education. Her father paid her way, and when she needed something like a washing machine, he brought a spanking new one right on over. She seemed to think it a personal choice, a completely insane and incomprehensible personal choice, to take on extra work of any sort, whether to learn something or to pay for something, and therefore was way more into saying "oh, if you've got to do that, I'm going off to the cottage to canoe" than saying "oh, right, I"ll help you right along with that, it'll get done sooner", as my less happy, less privileged friends were wont to do.
That in fact was the death of our relationship. When she was off having dinner with friends, while MY friends helped me out with my goals and aspirations and responsibilities.
I hate to say, but these many years later, she is still pretty darn happy. I have a bit less existential angst. But I am damn proud of where I'm at. And I think things like her not inheriting the family cabin on the lake actually helped her grow as a person (her parents sold it and spent the $ in their retirement).
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Goodbye Michael. May your next life be kinder to you. - Thursday, Jun. 25, 2009
*inspired by Chaosdaily