Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thoughts on "Global Happiness" and "GWB"

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

This morning is almost too beautiful to allow for any work or task-oriented concentration. When I returned from my long trek with Scout I made coffee, threw open all the windows, and tried to map out my day. So far all I have achieved (and it's already 8:40) is a lot of listening to birds singing, leaves rustling in the breeze, and the distant noise of traffic.

This is both the privilege and the price of working at home.
  • The privilege is this amazing workspace, fresh coffee in my own kitchen, the ability to take my laptop onto the back porch, a huge galumphing labradoodle standing beside me with a toy hanging from her mouth before flopping down with a huge sigh,  and choosing my own hours.
  • The price is pretty much the same: this fabulous home, gourmet coffee, the back porch, playing with Scoutie, choosing hours that - yesterday - included an afternoon on the golf course I can see from the porch.
Looks like I'm "Cutting-Edge":
It would appear that I'm in the kind of position that is now valued by the British government. Statisticians in the UK have been asked to "measure the nation's well-being." Prime Minister David Cameron was quoted as saying "It's time we focused not just on GDP (Gross Domestic Product) but on GWB - General Well-Being."

"Our happiness levels have been stuck for the last 60-years," explained "Action for Happiness" co-founder Richard Layard of the London School of Economics. "There are a lot of ways in which [the quality of human relationships] has been neglected in favor of higher income."

In one very revealing article, the Associated Press reported "surprising results" from a global happiness survey that put Third World nations ahead of "much richer" European and North American societies.

Wow! What a damning one-sentence assessment of the shallow arrogance that drives our consumer culture! But I shouldn't be surprised, we spend billions of dollars annually for the sole purpose of convincing people that the only route to satisfaction in life is via the unbridled acquisition of consumer goods... and then we create elaborate lifestyles in order to justify the expenditure and perpetuate the myth.

Ignorance and Deception:
I'd like to say that this report holds out the promise that secular society is on the brink of stumbling into the foundational principles of faith, and that people will undoubtedly recognize the timeless teachings of Jesus in this Action for Happiness agenda.... I'd like to say that... But I'm doubtful, because so much of the public face of Christianity seems to have been moving in the opposite direction. The Good News that Jesus taught is - all too frequently - hijacked by religious people intent on using Christianity to prop up the status quo.

Consequently, instead of a message of liberation, and an invitation to discover joy beyond the strictures inherent with amassing personal wealth, Jesus has been re-cast as a middle-class suburban consumer who blesses the faithful with material goods and then wraps himself in the American flag.

We've been charged with the responsibility to share the Good News (Matthew 28). But I'm beginning to wonder exactly what message many who espouse the word "evangel" are evangelists for?

Sign me "Already Happy" - DEREK


Geoffrey said...

Right on brother! The country of Bhutan has measured the happiness quotient for many years, calling it the gross national happiness. More recently Denmark was declared the happiest nation in the world because of the small a gap between rich and poor. Taxes are huge but with a leveler playing field everyone is taken care of. Sounds pretty Christian to me! Keep up the good work! What programs would jesus save? Me thinks all that help the poor!

Clarence Heller said...

Your comments remind me of a prayer written by Tielhard de Chardin, S.J. entitled "Patient Trust." The first line of the prayer is "Above all, trust in the slow work of God."