Monday, October 5, 2009

Thought for the Day

The only thing standing between poor people and happiness is their misconception that money would make things better.


Anonymous said...

That and food, water, medical care, shelter, and education.

Jim Leff said...

Well, if by "poor", you thought I meant "sick, thirsty, and starving", then, indeed, my point would be ridiculous and your comment would be appropriate. But I didn't and it's not. Re: education: I'm not so sure.

As a writer and a musician, I've spent time with an unusually wide range of people in over 25 countries. And poor people are almost all happier (I'm certainly not the first to observe this). Which is certainly not to say they don't have problems. But wealthier people have their own set of problems...and, in fact, invariably allow themselves to be made far more unhappy by them. Problems are unceasing, regardless of our efforts to stanch their flow. Happiness is all in the attitude [ ]

The only thing standing between poor people and happiness is their misconception that money would make things better. Simple but huge. And true.

Dave said...

Gee, all the studies I've seen have indicated that there is some correlation between affluence and happiness. Specifically, northern European countries (Denmark and Austria come to mind) that do have a "safety net" mentality seem to express more happiness.

It's certainly not a one-to-one correlation, though. Why are Nigerians and Puerto Ricans happier than Tanzanians and Chileans?

Jim Leff said...

I've seen studies that show otherwise. But, obviously, "happiness" is an awfully squishy thing to subject to the rigors of cold numerics, so I don't look to science so much as my own empirical experience while traveling widely and hanging out with a weirdly broad range of people.

As for variance from place to place, that's obviously (?) cultural. As I suggested here: ....our level of happiness is something we choose, often (as with all facets of personality) in resonance to the examples we see around us. And different cultures value or discourage certain expressions of happiness.

For example, I was in Hungary recently, where people tend to cultivate a dark dourness. Amelie would be mocked in such a place, where smiley brightness would be viewed as callow superficiality. Yet there is a rich beauty to the dark dourness there, an innately deep love for bittersweet complication, which may not strike someone from our culture as "happiness", but which does press some of those same buttons.

And there are cultures where happiness is downright discouraged. In Judaism, to exult in how good life is going is to tempt God to thrash you back down again. Indeed, while my family was anything but religiously Jewish, we unconsciously took that to heart. "Oh, shit!" was the perpetual mantra as life's petty travails and impediments presented themselves and we kept our noses down. It took me years to remove some of the conditioning that made life feel like an unpleasant obstacle course to be stoically endured.

Anonymous said...

First comment poster here. Poor is a relative term. In most contexts, globally, those who are poor lack some of or all of the above.

If what you meant by poor was that they couldn't afford a BMW, well, then my comment isn't relevant. Otherwise, I stand by it, and you should probably look for a narrower word than "poor" to express this sentiment if that is what you intended.

Jim Leff said...

A huge swathe of humanity lives between the extremes of starving to death and unable to afford a Beemer (or a used beat-up Ford Escort). I was referring to them. I'm really quite sure reasonable readers understood that.

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