Happiness

Ideas and Issues Personal Writings
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May 15, 2022

            Pearl River      Recently we were talking about Pharrell Williams trying to navigate a guest appearance orchestrated by the younger Walton clan at a conference in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Walmart company town.  Williams is best known for his song, “Happy”, which was on constant replay everywhere several years ago.  You remember, it went like this:

It might seem crazy what I am ’bout to say
Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care, baby by the way

Huh (Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

Here come bad news talking this and that (Yeah)
Well give me all you got, don’t hold back (Yeah)
Well I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine (Yeah)
No offence to you don’t waste your time

In these difficult and divisive times, it’s worth thinking about what makes people happy.  You know, Pharrell Williams’ kind of happy.  It’s not necessarily what you might think, and, here’s even better news, it’s not necessarily as hard to find as you might fear.

An op-ed in the Times looked at the data behind happiness.  If you think money is all that, the data shows there’s blip at $75,000 per year, a plateau likely where Americans put homelessness and starvation out of their minds.  The next blip is a bridge way too far at $8 million, but other than that, the data says there are only marginal gains.  $75 grand is a lot of money, but the data finds that the threshold to real happiness can’t be bought.

It’s like one of the current country-and-western songs that sings, “you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy dirt.”  Maybe?  Better, you don’t have to buy it, if you can find it. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s deep dive into the data offers that:

Researchers have found that the activities that make people happiest include sex, exercise and gardening…. People are consistently happier when they are out in nature, particularly near a body of water, particularly when the scenery is beautiful.

I don’t want to cross any lines here, but exercise and gardening are easy for everyone to access, money be damned.  Nature is also right at hand, if we’re ready to open our eyes and get outside.  Sure, not everyone can walk blocks to the Mississippi River, like we can in New Orleans, but scenery is “in the eyes of the beholder” at any dawn or sunset or gaze up into the heavens.

I’m no flower child. Life is incredibly hard.  No doubt about that. I’m not putting sugar in your coffee, just saying, there might be some small relief that is very accessible.  We have to fight back, and in a world of data, it seems the direction is clear from what most people say, and not too hard to find, if we’re willing to get outside, look around, and grab it.  It may “seem crazy”, but maybe Pharrell has a point?