November 13th, 2012


Minister of Happiness

Money is a by-product of bigger, more meaningful goals such as passion, fun and wisdom.
~ Richard Branson

Bhutan is the only country to measure happiness. They have a Ministry of Happiness to measure the country's GNH (or Gross National Happiness) which "...measures quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms than only the economic indicator of gross domestic product (GDP)." Wow!

As someone who strives for happiness I have many considerations, for happiness isn't selfish (How many of you know selfish people who are happy?) nor is it solely altruistic (more a measure of meaningfulness, though dentin did extrapolate on the cultural benefits of being long-term "selfish", which looks a lot like altruism). For me, happiness comes from applying the Nash Equilibrium to lifestyle - ensure (to the best of your ability) those around you are also happy.

I rarely (I won't say never) act rashly. I tend to give everything due consideration. The fact that I process information ceaselessly through scenario-running just means I've already considered most outcomes and am ready to act - just because it seemed quick doesn't mean it was rash. It also doesn't mean it isn't flawed at times, only that it makes sense to me. Many times in the past I relied upon drax0r to poke holes in my logic as he was much more adept at it than I am. Hey, we all have to start somewhere.

Which brings me to awe, which I freely admit to experiencing often - over a wide variety of experiences. According to a study in Psychological Science, awe "expands people's perception of time, enhances well-being and causes people to behave more altruistically and less materialistically." This explains so much about where my concept of time comes from!

Business Insider columnist Gus Lubin exchanged emails with one of the paper's authors who defined an "awe" experience as something which required:

  1. Perceptual vastness

    • (i.e., you need to perceive that you’ve encountered something vast in number, size, scope, complexity, or social bearing)

  2. A need for accommodation

    • (i.e., you must feel that you need to revise or update your mental structures/the way you think/your understanding of the world in order to understand the perceptually vast thing/stimuli)

Honestly, I can't tell you how good this validation in particular feels. I am not a scientist. I really can't prove any of my theories except in how I feel - and often the reply is, "Bullshit." I have preached (my wife calls it my new religion) on here ceaselessly on the importance of changing your worldview to accommodate that which you cannot otherwise comprehend, and letting your values self-correct to incorporate the new understanding.

I'm like the dullard at school who tried really hard and got the green ribbon for "most improved." That is to say, I really didn't excel competitively, I just did better than my usual. It explains why I have so much awe in my life. Don't you see? I'm finding I have to "update" my "understanding of the world" far more often that those way ahead of me. I see "scope" in very nearly everything I unearth - different ways to apply philosophy - and see "complexity" likewise; its daunting to know something can be applied liberally and yet be subject to existing paradigms, especially where "social bearing" is concerned! Its because my understanding was so far behind. I get the green ribbon.

It just helps reinforce that I'm not crazy.

As the Bhutanese Minster of Happiness says, "Increasingly, there has been so much research in terms of developing ways, matrixes and systems which can actually assess the way in which happiness can be measured through various factors that contribute to the happiness quotient of an individual. There are those now who increasingly accept happiness as an objective for development."

Color me happy :)