Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner


Last April, I wandered into The Strand Bookstore to escape a depressing, drizzly day. While browsing the travel section, my eye was caught by the subtitle of a book – One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World. My initial reaction was to snarl that happiness wasn’t a place – it was a state of mind. But then I thought about it – is it easier to be happier in some cities or countries than in others? Do some cultures facilitate happiness more than others? Would I become a happier person if I read the book and applied Weiner’s words of wisdom to my own life? While considering this, I read part of the chapter on Iceland, which completely won me over. Iceland was obviously the perfect country. I shelled out $20.00 and took my book home, eager to get ideas from Icelandic society on how to transform my life.
The happy countries that Weiner visits (prior to 2007) include Iceland, Switzerland, Thailand, Bhutan, India, Great Britain, and the US. With the exception of Bhutan, which recently crowned a new king, all the other countries have suffered great financial and/or political unrest in the six months since I first read the book. In fact, being included in the book seems to have the same effect as being chosen "most likely to be successful" for a high school yearbook - it guarantees disaster. Now the question in my mind is whether the values that got these countries included in the book are enough to help them battle through the massive unemployment, financial meltdowns, and internal violence. I'll begin the discussion with Iceland.


Anonymous said...

I've read reports that a lot of people that lived through the Depression ultimately considered themselves happy during that period. People learned to make do, and turned relatively meager accommodations or meals into happy occasions with friends. Perhaps these the people in the "happy" places will be able to withstand the tough times with more equanimity than others.

Tracey said...

Based on the stories on the blog

there will be lots of American bonding with family and friends out of necessity. While I think people will develop a newr appreciation of the strength of family ties, they still may not be that happy.