Monday, December 08, 2008

Imagine Peace, Cultivate Happiness

Imagine Peace

Imagine Peace, Cultivate Happiness

By Richard Power

The IMAGINE PEACE TOWER in Reykjavik has gone dark again. Dedicated on October 9th 2007, Lennon’s 67th birthday, it is "an outdoor work of art conceived by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon" and "symbolizes Lennon’s and Ono’s struggle for world peace which began in the sixties."

Yoko Ono has it lit every year from October 9th (the anniversary of John Lennon's birth) to December 8th (the anniversary of his assassination) as a symbol, a beacon and a focus of prayer and wishes.

So now that the green-powered shaft of light has been turned off until next year, I exhort you to not only "Imagine Peace," but also to "Cultivate Happiness," particularly at this strange juncture of great political hope and great economic despair.

Today, you are the symbol, the beacon and the focus.

To overcome the challenges of achieving economic security, environmental security and energy security, we are going to need not only courage, compassion and clarity of mind, but also an indomitable inner happiness. It is not only attainable, it is actually our natural state, if we just allow ourselves to experience it in the space between our thoughts and graspings.

As fuel for the stoking of your internal hearth, I commend two recent news stories to you.

One, from the S.F. Chronicle, tells how the government of Bhutan has begun a global trend toward factoring happiness and well-being into our understanding of national strength and success. "The dogma of limitless productivity and growth in a finite world is unsustainable and unfair for future generations."

The other, from the L.A. Times, reports on the importance of "social networks" in the spreading of happiness and well-being. "A happy friend who lives within a half-mile makes you 42% more likely to be happy yourself."

Take a few moments to read these excerpts, and the articles they link to, and then factor their messages into your work.

In the thick of a global financial crisis, many economists have come to this Himalayan kingdom to study a unique economic policy called Gross National Happiness [GNH], based on Buddhist principles. ... "Happiness is very serious business," Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Thinley said. "The dogma of limitless productivity and growth in a finite world is unsustainable and unfair for future generations." ...
"We can no longer approach the 21st century with the instruments of the 20th century," said Nicholas Rosellini, head of the U.N. mission in Bhutan.
Indeed, GNH guidelines are being adopted in Brazil, India and Haiti.
But the most extensive programs are occurring in Canada, Australia, the United States and France. The Canadian Index on Well-being, Measuring Australia's Well-being project and State of the USA are all trying to measure the well-being of its inhabitants.
Sabina Alkire, professor of economics at Oxford University, says such surveys are geared to measuring the quality of life irrespective of gross domestic product. "Happiness is a mysterious and profound thing, and any means of measuring it is imperfect," she said. "But it is much less imperfect than GDP." ...
For GNH to grow, government must concentrate on four key areas:
-- Promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development
-- Preservation and promotion of cultural values
-- Conservation of the environment
-- Good government
In a bid to popularize the concept internationally, the Bhutanese government is devising a GNH index that is expected to be ready as early as the end of the year. Unlike the gross domestic product index, however, a GNH index measures the quality of life based on 72 standards.
Don Duncan, S.F. Chronicle, 12-4-08

In a study published online today by the British Medical Journal, scientists from Harvard University and UC San Diego showed that happiness spreads readily through social networks of family members, friends and neighbors.
Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself, the study found. A happy friend of a friend increases your odds of happiness by 9.8%, and even your neighbor's sister's friend can give you a 5.6% boost. ...
A happy friend who lives within a half-mile makes you 42% more likely to be happy yourself. If that same friend lives two miles away, his impact drops to 22%. Happy friends who are more distant have no discernible impact, according to the study.
Similarly, happy siblings make you 14% more likely to be happy yourself, but only if they live within one mile. Happy spouses provide an 8% boost -- if they live under the same roof. Next-door neighbors who are happy make you 34% more likely to be happy too, but no other neighbors have an effect, even if they live on the same block. ... Richard Suzman, director of behavioral and social research at the National Institute on Aging, said Fowler's and Christakis' work was persuasive enough to force policymakers to rethink the importance of social ties when contemplating happiness or obesity or smoking. "You can't just treat individuals; you have to treat networks or communities," he said.
Karen Kaplan, LA Times, 12-5-08

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

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