I have always liked the phrase, "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" from the Declaration of Independence. Ambiguous, yet it has a nice ring to it.
I'm sure that thousands of studies have been done on the topic of happiness, both scientific and theological. And with varying results. Earlier this year I read "Desiring God," by John Piper, which represents one model of a Christian pursuit of happiness.
I've tried to write about happiness here a few times, but my little problem with wordiness and the abundance of existing publicatons prompt me to be brief. I will simply note, for your interest, the results of one of many recent studies:
"The 20 happiest nations in the World are:
5. The Bahamas
13. Costa Rica
15. The Netherlands
16. Antigua and Barbuda
18. New Zealand
20. The Seychelles
Other notable results include:
The three least happy countries were:
176. Democratic Republic of the Congo
178. Burundi ."
In addition to wondering about obvious possible factors like wealth, climate, and genes, one of my questions is:
How does a culture's attitude towards self-expression play a role? For example, some cultures may consider it rude or prideful to consider oneself "satisfied." On the other hand, in another culture it may be unmannerly to say one lacks something. Why is Japan in the middle? Are the Japanese neutral about their satisfaction level?
Would a Dane ever admit that he or she were unhappy? What would it take? How about a citizen of one of those African countries down at the bottom? Would his or her life situation ever change enough to raise the happiness meter?
And what are the comparative happiness ratings of Christians in the countries surveyed?
And how would I answer such a survey? I have no idea. It's like the ambiguous "how are you?". What does that mean? How am I physically? Emotionally? How is my work? Personal life? Do I ever have the right to say I'm doing terribly, as long as someone is poorer or sadder or sicker than I am? Can I ever say I'm doing great, while there are still goals unreached or unfulfilled desires? And yet, does a neutral response respect the interest of the one inquiring?
I will sum up thus: There is always something to rejoice about. But there is always more work to be done!
I found the article here, and the original cited context is: University of Leicester. "Psychologist Produces The First-ever 'World Map Of Happiness'." ScienceDaily 14 November 2006.