Saturday, May 9, 2009

I'm Moving to Bhutan

On Thursday night I watched the Micheal J. Fox special Adventures of an Incurable Optimist and I have been thinking about it ever since. The man truly is an inspiration. What hit home hard was the realization that he was my age when he woke up with his first sign of Parkinson's. I think he made me happy just watching hm on TV. Is it possible for positive energy to come through the television?

I must admit that while I have always wanted to be an optimist I think I am a born pessimist. During the portion of the show when they were discussing the difference between optimists and pessimists I could definitely relate to the dark side. In most challenges I have to think of all the things that could go wrong before I can actually get down to the work of solving a problem or dealing with an issue. It was crazy to hear that I might be genetically predisposed to this reaction. Although I think we are certainly born leaning towards one side or another, I also think that nurture plays a huge role in how we learn to view the world. Although, I do lean towards pessimism, I am generally an optimistic person. Maybe that is why I am such a Star Wars fan?

Gross National Happiness vs Gross National Product

The other night my husband and I were watching TV and Beth Ostrosky popped up in a commercial. That woman is always so damned chipper. I passed a comment that I need to talk to Beth to see how she stays so happy married to such a pessimist. She is married to Howard Stern who in my opinion epitomizes pessimism. I actually DO like parts of Howard's Show- no judgement please- but one can't deny he is a pessimist. I am not equating my husband to Howard, but at times he can be a bit of a pessimist too. My husband quickly replied that if he had as much money as Howard he would be happy. I find this line of though endlessly interesting and absurd. I do NOT associate money with happiness. I associate happiness with things like friends and family and doing what you love. This country is all about making money and yet it seems that not many people are truly happy.

Now cut to the MJF documentary where he visits the country Butan. This is a place where the government measures Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product. YES! They believe everyone should be striving for happiness. And * GASP* money is not the key to this happiness. “The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of equitable and sustainable socioeconomic development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance.” I think these people have the right idea.

Our constitution includes the pursuit of happiness-but how can we pursue something when so many have lost sight of where it originates.

If you missed the documentary it is worth seeing for the segment on Bhutan alone. Read more about Gross National happiness in this New York Times article.

“Happiness is inward, and not outward; and so, it does not depend on what we have, but on what we are” Henry Van Dyke


Beth said...

I think anyone who knows me would call me an optimist but now that I've heard the explanation of a pessimist vs. an optimist I think I'm a pessimist too. However, based on that explanation, being a pessimist isn't a bad thing. I think there's a difference between being a pessimist and being a downer. I just like to make the right decision based on all possible outcomes. But I'll be the first to find the good in any person or situation and I always put a positive spin on everything. This documentary has made me really think about opt v. pess. I'm not sure I quite get it yet but I'm learning.

Marcy said...

Zach and I have talked about the whole money vs happiness debate a lot... like that most people will say they would be happier if only they made 2x what they do now, but that number is constantly changing. It's hard not to envy or compare when we live in a society with so much wealth on the top end-- we in the US seem to be very into "maximizing the maximum" (allowing people to get as rich as they possibly can, and hope it trickles down to everyone else) while other places (thinking of France) try to make everyone in the bottom/middle be a well off as possible which means the "rich" don't get that rich, but the society as a whole might end up better off.

There's also the fact that we Americans get so spoiled, forgetting that unless you're in the severe-poverty class line in our country, we're all much better off than most people all over the world. It's just easy to forget that when it's riches that are already in front of our faces, rather than those who are less fortunate.