Friday, November 16, 2007

Money vs Happiness

We are now on the second half of November, and so far, no real problems blogging on a daily basis. Perhaps, after 30 days of being disciplined about post, I will have formed a habit and will just have to continue posting on a regular basis :) We shall see...

I've been doing some reading and research in preparation for a teaching segment I have next week at church. We are discussing poverty and how each one of us can do something about it. My particular segment is focusing on the different types of poverty. Most of us, no matter how much money we may or may not have, are in some sort of poverty. Whether that lack of resources be in happiness, close deep friendships, or spiritual matters, money doesn't make the world go 'round. So any address of poverty needs to also focus on these areas in order to ensure the complete well being of the person.

Now there are a lot of things that are debatable in the previous statement. I am not saying that a lack of deep friendships makes one just as worse off as a starving family in Malawi. However, I AM saying that just providing capital to the starving family in Malawi will not suffice to make their lives better.

Enter Gross National Happiness. "While conventional development models stress economic growth as the ultimate objective, the concept of GNH claims to be based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance." (from wiki) Taking a look at the Happy Planet Index, there seems to be a reverse correlation between happiness and economic prosperity. The US is 150 on the list, while countries such as Vanatu, Cuba, Vietnam and Tajikistan are in the top 25. Go check out the list, it's fascinating.

Clearly, while we seem to have come out on top in the economic arena, we Americans are generally not happy with our lives. Perhaps we can blame rampant consumerism - our insatiable desire for more doesn't leave room for satisfaction with what we have now. No matter how much money we can accumulate, it's never enough. We spend more than we make on our credit cards; we refinance our homes and our cars to get the latest gadgets and fashions, while our children entertain themselves in front of the television and online. We are so busy making money that we don't have time to stop and enjoy the beauty of nature, or to have a deep conversation with our child, or to really ask a friend how she is doing. Money isn't everything.

So, what do we do about it? How do we cultivate satisfaction in a competitive marketplace? How do we put the brakes on when the bills are due? Or, is happiness not relevant in the modern world? Should we be more concerned with economic viability than with social connection?

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