fourculture: issue one

Page 49

suggestions are going to piness in a most uncomfortSwami Rivah was jovial, yet he became genuinely ignite happiness. able style, as I recognized it. “That’s why we are skeptics,” I said, “I’ve read all the somber at times. He laughed and then he cried said one skeptic. “If we bemumbo jumbo, in your books and then sometimes he just gazed into thin air and others, about peace of lieved anything would work, would that be skeptical? I I have practiced mediand moved his mouth subtly, like a ventriloquist. mind. don’t think so.” tation and I once went to a After a stone-kicking contest we had during a The study of happiness Halloween party in a Krishalso attracts neuroscientists, costume. But still, windstorm, I decided to come right out and ask namurti sociologists and members of I long for things and people the road company of Jersey to play a role in making Swami Rivah a pivotal question. Boys. me happy. Nothing makes Economists sometimes sense with the exception of collaborate but psycholoneurotransmitters, and they those same people said they had been givgists believe that happiness are becoming expensive. “ without money is something solely for “our en to reading the works of Jean-Paul Sartre “Come again, I wasn’t listening. Somedaily. patients.” times I am given to such a load of altruism, By the 1990s, studies show, happiness compassion, inner peace, inner freedom But other members of academia wonder if this is any stimulus at all for happiness began to emerge enormously in the United and inner strength that it resembles AttenStates and other wealthy nations. in modern times. tion Deficiency Disorder.” “We’re just so many times richer than “I think whoever coined the term ‘disThat was the beginning of a week in mal’ was an unhappy person,” said Nick our grandparents were that we can afford the Himalayan region with Ricard—who inPapakonstantinou, a prominent psycholo- to think, ‘Do we actually need more money sisted I call him “Ricky.” On the third day gist whose name is yet to be pronounced now?’” said a distant relative of oil tycoon J. he introduced me to Swami Rivah. Ricky Paul Getty in a 1995 interview published in said this particular guru was “more my correctly by anyone. Papakonstantinou’s quote gave me Miniature Donkey Talk magazine. style.” I knew Ricky was right about that During my research I discovered the when I went to Swami Rivah’s home and great pause. The pause was so profound that I fell into a deep depression over the biggest promoters of happiness are the he popped out of a doorway in blackface, next month. It became so serious that when empiricists, who condemn misery and sui- doing an Al Jolson impression. I laughed. someone stole my identity over the internet cides. I sought to talk personally to one of Swami Rivah and I were together the them. I was happy to get an audience with a rest of the week and I admit that it was a they returned it within 24 hours. But then I had a flash of self-importance major force in this philosophical tribe, Mat- happy few days. Swami Rivah was jotieu Ricard. when I read a quote by Enrico Marcelli. vial, yet he became somber at times. He At almost 70, Ricard, a Frenchman who laughed and then he cried and then someProfessor Marcelli is a Harvard researcher who earned his doctorate from became a Buddhist monk, is an author and times he just gazed into thin air and moved USC. He said, “Happiness among Ameri- holds a doctorate in cellular genetics. The his mouth subtly, like a ventriloquist. After can adults peaks at age 51 — earlier than British press labeled him “The Happiest a stone-kicking contest we had during a Man in the World.” many other researchers had believed.” windstorm, I decided to come right out and I had to visit him in the Himalayas, the ask Swami Rivah a pivotal question. In 2011 I completed my 61st year of life. When I read Marcelli’s quote I thought back place he calls home. It took most of my sav“What is happiness?” I said, solemnly. to when I turned 51. If what Marcelli wrote ings, but I got there and when I did, he was Swami Rivah looked deeply into my had any significance, it stood to reason that wearing a yellow-and-burgundy robe, just eyes. After a few endless beats, he put his I should have already lost a decade of hap- like a monk in the movies. I talked with him hand on my shoulder, squeezed lightly and about my problem while we drank tea. piness, having peaked in 2001. smiled. “That is Tetley tea,” I said, reading the This was a blend of good and bad “You’ve been away for such a long news. It was good because it explained my label hanging from the teabag string. time,” he said. “You never thought you “Oui,” Ricard said. “You would rather would miss it so. Somehow I feel your love bouts with discontent. It was bad because it meant my happiness levels were on the have Lipton?” is real and near you I want to be.” “No, no,” I fired back. “I don’t like Lipton. wane and weren’t going to increase any “Huh?” I like Tetley and I like it strong.” time soon. “The birds are singing, it is song time,” Ricard put another teabag into my hot he continued. “The banjos strumming soft I decided to do more research. Available data revealed that from 1946 water and smiled. and low. I know you are yearning.” “You had brain-wave measurements to 1970 the average citizen younger than There was a long silence as I felt an 51 became more than 60% richer, but there and scans and the doctors identified a lot of ineffable explanation for everything. Then I was no evidence that it made them hap- activity in the parts associated with positive put my hand on his shoulder. pier. In late 1947, about 42% of Americans emotions.” I said, “Swami, how I love you, how I “Oui.” surveyed said they were “very happy,” even love you, my dear old Swami.” “So is happiness chemical? Or can it be though they were making less money and It has been a few months since I saw assumingly having less sex (at least with stimulated?” Swami Rivah. I feel happier now, even “Sugar?” other people). though I do not have a lot of money or a lot “Sugar can bring happiness?” By 1969, a similar poll found the veryof sex. I realize nothing specific or in bulk “Do you want sugar in your Tetley?” happy crowd diminishing. Only 43% of brings happiness to a person. I studied the look on his face. Ricard had Americans declared themselves “very hapI realize that misery is the new happipy.” Things became worse by 1970, when a settling countenance. He reeked of hap- ness. Please check out other works by Frank: License To Skill and Molotov Memoirs

Millions discover their favorite reads on issuu every month.

Give your content the digital home it deserves. Get it to any device in seconds.