Thursday, February 9, 2012

Celebrate World Happy Day!

A positive, inspiring film called Happy will have more than 500 screenings in 40 countries on Saturday, Febrauary 11 - a day that has been designated World Happy Day!

Happy was made by Rod Belic, whose film Genghis Blues was nominated for an Academy Award. Belic spent six years traveling around the world, asking ordinary folk and experts questions about what makes us happy.

The Happy website proclaims "a happy world begins with you!"
Does money make you HAPPY? Kids and family? Your work? Do you live in a world that values and promotes happiness and well-being? Are we in the midst of a happiness revolution?
Roko Belic, director of the Academy Award® nominated “Genghis Blues” now brings us HAPPY, a film that sets out to answer these questions and more. Taking us from the bayous of Louisiana to the deserts of Namibia, from the beaches of Brazil to the villages of Okinawa, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.
 This is a film I very much want to see. As a chaplain and therapist, I've met many unhappy people, enough to know that unhappiness can be very different from being depressed, though depressed people by definition are seldom happy. I think of unhappy people as being people who are unfulfilled. So what is it that makes us happy?

According to a story about Happy in The Winnipeg Free Press, "One of the qualities happy people have in common, he discovered, is a sense of connectedness to their community. So rather than distribute the film through traditional channels, he (Belic) turned its release into a grassroots group activity."

This notion of happy people feeling connected to community makes a great deal of sense. Human beings are social, relational beings. We are also a species which, regardless of culture, takes delight in story telling, and almost always those stories are about our interactions with other people. 

Happiness has been a major topic of human consideration for thousands of years.

Apart from Belic;s initiatives in making and promoting Happy, the 21st century has seen ground-breaking efforts by Bhutan, which has resulted in thousands of people in countries around the world looking at happiness in a new way.

You've heard of gross national product. Well, Bhutan, one of the world's most isolated and poor countries, has come up with the idea of "gross national happiness (GNH)"

Bhutan's Gross National Happiness site provides a fascinating overview of the concept, and of how it's been implemented in that Himalayan kingdom. There's nine domains which are considered in the nation-wide survey to determine the level of GNH:
"The nine domains are: psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards. The domains represents each of the components of wellbeing of the Bhutanese people, and the term ‘wellbeing’ here refers to fulfilling conditions of a ‘good life’ as per the values and principles laid down by the concept of Gross National Happiness."

Throughout history people have pondered about happiness, and how we can become - and stay - happy. One of the first people to make a major inquiry about happiness was Greek philosopher Aristotle, more than 2,300 years ago.

Aristotle was concerned with the question of happiness. From his studies and reflections, he came to believe that happiness is  central to a meaningful and worthy life. According to a site called The Pursuit of Happiness, Aristotle linked happiness to "the ultimate purpose of human existence."
"The main trouble is that happiness (especially in modern America) is often conceived of as a subjective state of mind, as when one says one is happy when one is enjoying a cool beer on a hot day, or is out “having fun” with one’s friends. For Aristotle, however, happiness is a final end or goal that encompasses the totality of one’s life. It is not something that can be gained or lost in a few hours, like pleasurable sensations. It is more like the ultimate value of your life as lived up to this moment, measuring how well you have lived up to your full potential as a human being."
Of course, Aristotle was a philosopher, so it's probably not surprising he took a deep and serious view of what happiness is. Perhaps today, we might use the terms joy, or abiding joy, to describe what Aristotle considered happiness.

Nonetheless, Aristotle's work provides a helpful corrective for modern notions of happiness, which are often superficial. Frequently, those who have started off equating happiness with the party circuit, or being able to buy whatever they want, or being the center of attention, have learned such happiness fades after a while. One's reminded of the old song which had as its refrain words to the effect of "is that all there is?"

The saying that "money can't buy happiness" captures this idea, although a comedian in the 60s quipped that if you have enough money "you can rent happiness for awhile."

Back to the present - the film Happy is more than just a movie. It's meant to bring people together, reflecting on the lives of people whose stories are told in the film, and on their own lives. Involvement is key to the kind of grassroots response Belic is hoping Happy will elicit.

And from involvement comes a greater sense of connection and community participation. Here's information on how you and those you know can become involved in the ongoing Happy movement.

Here's the link to the Happy blog. Check it out!

This coming Saturday - February 11 - let's celebrate World Happy Day!

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