The Origins Of Happiness –
The Science of Well-Being over the Life Course
By Andrew E. Clark, Sarah Fleche, Richard Layard,
Nattavudh Powdthavee &George Ward
Princeton University Press – £27.95
What matters to people must be the guidelines for our policies.
Wealth is like seawater. The more we drink, the thirstier we become.
Most people would contest to not really caring about the origins of happiness; but rather, just being happy in the right here, right now. And to a certain degree (or should that read, dilemma?), who can really blame them?
After all, happiness, whatever it may be or however it is perceived and considered – is surely a mere off-shoot of contentment? That altogether ethereal, rather effervescent something, which we all fundamentally strive for throughout our entire lives.
But doesn’t happiness per se, come at a price (and a fairly hefty one at that)?
So far as a multitude of cancerous advertising moguls are concerned, happiness can be both bought and devoured by way of delusional diversion. The so-called American Dream being the perfect example, which is where the above opening quote by Shopenhauer truly comes into play. For ’tis indeed true, that the more seawater we drink, the thirstier we become. This partially explains why so many Americans are burnt out at such a young age.
Not to mention why America just so happens to be one of the most stress induced nations on the planet.
The Origins Of Happiness – The Science of Well-Being over the Life Course, does as such, make for an almighty interesting and persuasive read: ”Our aim is ambitious – it is to revolutionize how we think about human priorities. Inevitably the findings at this stage are approximate. But it is better to be roughly right about what really matters than to be exactly right about what matters less. Our findings should therefore be judged not by comparison with a state of perfect knowledge but with the prevailing ignorance.”
‘The prevailing ignorance’ being the key three words here, as it is something which ought to be considered one of the great scourges of humanity. And ultimately happiness.
Reason being, ignorance – in all its vainglorious glory – has to be (one of) the most profound origins of unhappiness.
Responsible for a multitude of sins.
Whether the crucifixion of he we continue to refer to as having suffered for our sins, the rise of the Nazi Party, Donald Trump, or the heinous, continuing success of The X Factor.
Ignorance is indeed, responsible for so much unhappiness, a prime example being the belief that money will surely obliterate unhappiness.
This book’s second chapter ‘Income’ (its first being ‘Happiness over the Life-Course: What Matters Most?) addresses the dictum which many subscribe to as being the ultimate be all of all things.
To be sure, it opens with the following: ”Does more money buy more happiness? It does, but less than many people might think. There two extreme views, both equally fallacious. On the one hand there are careless studies claiming that money makes no difference. This is certainly wrong, if we are talking about life-satisfaction as the outcome. On the other hand, there are millions of individuals who think that more money would totally change their well being. For most people, this too is a delusion.”
Upon reading the above, many might consider that the five authors herein traipse the easy road by essentially sitting on the literary fence, but this really isn’t so. The rest of the chapter, in fact the book as a whole, delves into far more involved analyses, by way of numerous (statistical) comparisons between Britain, the United States, Germany and Australia; making for a book, which, as it’s secondary title suggests, is as equally scientific in approach as it is sociological.
To quote Princeton University’s Alan Krueger: ”Rooted in the best-available evidence for each stage in life, The Origins Of Happiness provides an ambitious and comprehensive analyses of what leads to a satisfying life, from childhood to old age.”