A few columns ago we looked at some of the studies that have been created to study the issue of happiness. The Harvard longitudinal study mentioned that as this class of Harvard students aged, their relationships seemed to be a major factor in how they viewed being “happy”.
It seems our society is obsessed with this concept of being happy. Just in time for summer (our happiest time?) comes more information. A BBC News Magazine piece reviewed a study done by the World Happiness database in Rotterdam. They found that there is, according tot heir studies, a “lack of correlation between seeing meaning in life and being happy.”
Professor Veenhoven, director of the Database found that being active is the strongest correlate with happiness. Dr. Veeenhoven should have read his Viktor Frankl who reminded us in Man’s Search for Meaning that seeking meaning in life is not the goal, rather it is to live a life so that you have meaning.
Then there is the current (July 8/15) Time Magazine. Its cover story is titled “The Pursuit of Happiness.”
Just what you need to read at the beach or on vacation!
The author of the lead essay makes a distinction between “consumptive happiness” (the old bumper sticker that the person with the most toys..wins!) and the illusion of other types of happiness. Maybe we can call that spiritual happiness. Anyway, the article does point out that our vision of what makes us happy evolves as we, we hope, evolve and that there may actually be some genetic issue involved as well. Time’s article seems to focus on the state of happiness of the country. As for us as individuals, the variables are often hard to pin down.
Jewishly, however, there does not seem to be much debate. Home, family and relationships form the bedrock of our tradition’s view. The outer directed thrust of our tradition seems to echo the view that by going out and living life, to the best of your ability, you will find what makes you happy.
Or, as my mom used to say, “Who ever promised you happiness, anyway?”
Enjoy the summer. Hug your kids and spoil your grandchildren. It will never get any happier than that!
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min