Sunday, October 28, 2007

what really make us happy

i wish everyone had the time to read bill mckibben's new book, "deep economy."  geoff read it about a month ago and insisted that i read it next.  now i understand why.  in the beginning, it's quite depressing because it has to be as it describes what is about our current situation - economically and environmentally.  but then things begin to look up and it is a book full of hope about our capacity to live within limits, locally with a healthy and balanced economy and rhythm of life.  here's an reflection on revealing measures of happiness:

" In general, researchers report that money consistently buys happiness right up to about $10,000 per capita income, and after that point the correlation disappears.  That's a useful number to keep in the back of your head - it's like the freezing point of water, one of those random numbers that just happens to define a crucial phenomenon on our planet.  'As poor countries like India, Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil, and South Korea have experienced economic growth, there is some evidence that their average happiness has risen,' Richard Layard reports.  But past the $10,000 point, there's a complete scattering: when the Irish were making a third as much as Americans they were reporting higher levels of satisfaction, as were the Swedes, the Danes, the Dutch....A sampling of Forbes  magazine's 'richest American' has happiness scores identical with those of the Pennsylvania Amish.

On the list of important mistakes we've made as a species, this one seems pretty high up.  A single-minded focus on increasing wealth has driven the planet's ecological systems to the brink of failure, without making us happier.  How did we screw up?"


elizabeth said...
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elizabeth said...

Thanks for the post. I've been thinking alot about this stuff.

I just started Deep Economy and am liking it. (so far it's actually a more "pleasant" read compared to another I'm reading, Endgame by Derrek Jensen, how civilization itself [thus far I guess] is not sustainable at all because it's entirely dependant upon the exploitation of the poor (blatantly or subtly like slave labor or non-liveable wages) and the planet by whoever is in power. yikes)

Anyway, something I've been thinking alot about is the difference between the kingdoms of the world and the Kingdom of God. This book, The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd has helped me in thinking about the distinctions that are inherent. It just helps me to remember that of course the kingdoms of the world are going to be motivated by self interest and not have the faith to trust God to provide for what we can't on our own. And that they ultimately lead to death, as I think becomes evident ecologicaly. Also since civilization began there has been the concentration of power, described by Boyd as "rule by the sword." The temptation to become like God and "have everything" is so strong for us humans! Ruling by the sword and not by love (how we were created to live) I think produces so much of the mess today. So, this just reminds me to pray for the church to rise up and for us and me to live the Kingdom of God way, instead of expecting it to come from the world. (in all this though, His ways are not my ways, what I expect it to look like, I have no idea)

Another characteristic I see of this present over-consumptive system, is the spoken and unspoken belief that we're separate from the ecosystem of Earth (physicaly and emotionaly). We've become so disconnected from the natural laws that God put in place for how things and humans work that we think we can do it just fine on our own. Testing God has not proven well in the past.

I appreciate how McKibben talks positively and encouragingly about living within limits. There is a sense of humility to this, which also makes me wonder that, for those of us who find our identity at all in the kingdoms of the world, this will be a difficult process. (i only know this because I've been found guilty)

So, I find this kind of talk encouraging. A new form of measuring success, happiness, wealth, and wholeness definately feels like Jesus' way. Which, in fact, is not new at all, but, to a child of Western Civ it is.

Man, it just makes me believe more every day that Jesus and His Ways are the only way. And how much we need His mercy.

So, horray for a new kind of economics, and I have a lot to unlearn. :)