I've read and mostly enjoyed Reader's Digest since I was a very young child. I've had the current issue (Feb) in hand to fill odd moments for the last couple of days and found an item of interest. On page 16 there is an article about Joy citing the work of Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert author of Stumbling on Happiness. You may also have seen his NOVA series: This Emotional Life.
and downloaded a sample onto my Kindle--it's like a bookstore in my hand. When I next walk through a book store (real or virtual) I'll browse this title and give it the librarian's read: title page & catalog info, author bio if any, table of contents, introduction unless it's too long and a page or two here and there, maybe scan the index. I may decide to buy it but probably not; the world is full of books and a serious reader must save money as well as time.
Reading and bookstores and libraries make me happy, but perhaps the sneering snob is correct and I'm not a "serious reader" but a mere hunter/gatherer of books.
I'm intrigued by Daniel Gilbert's ideas. At least in the Reader's Digest version he offers this advice on how to be happy:
- commitment "isn't just a sign of love; it's a cause of love."
- little things "pleasure that happens reliably... every day...changes your life."
- hang in there "Let time do what time does well."
- go to church (or somewhere) and I'll have a comment on that a bit later
- give to others
- invest in experiences not things
Returning to Daniel Gilbert: "Churchgoers are happier than non-church goers, but not for the reasons people expect... it's not the religion part... It's the going-to-church part. It's the holding hands and singing. It's the knowing-folks-who-would-bring-you-soup-if-you-got-sick part. Odds seem to me pretty good that you could also get all the benefits out of a really tight stamp-collecting club." I agree that a community of caring is important to happiness and a defining aspect of church but it is only one aspect. Church is far superior to any club, no matter how "tight." At least my church is. Like a family, it is multi-generational--I mentor and am mentored throughout my life. It lets me keep in touch with the edges of life, with the very young and the very old. Like an ideal community, it is racially, ethnicly, economicly, socially, and culturally diverse--it expands my world. Most clubs are based on a shared interest; a church is based on a shared interest and a shared life. It, in fact, incorporates all six of the items on the above list: it is a commiment to God and to one another; it offers pleasure (that holding hands and singing thing) that happens reliably and changes lives; it offers comfort and hope and encouragement and tools to hang in there; it is a church; it provides countless opportunities to give time, money, and self; and it offers experiences and discourages materialism. A club may give happiness; a good church is a well-spring of joy.
Serendipity: last night the needs of one of our church members required DMP & I to forego the happiness of play-off football and Masterpiece Theater's Emma. Today when I checked out Daniel Gilbert's NOVA series, I find that I can watch the first episode of Emma at
Yes! I'm happy!