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!"
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, "
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!