By Tom Kando
An excellent Dutch monthly magazine I was just reading is Maarten! - named after its editor-in-chief. It is entertaining and provocative.
The issue I picked up recently (April 17) had Happiness (Geluk) as its main cover story, including interviews with some prominent Dutch people.
For example, there is an article by Alies Pegtel based on an interview with former Minister and Parliament member Rita Verdonk. I am not sure, but I believe that this lady has been controversial as the leader of a political party named Proud of the Netherlands, a somewhat nativist party.
Be that as it may, the now retired Minister ponders what makes her happy. Her list is predictable, and sensible: For one thing, she has always felt happiest pouring much energy into her work. Good. But small things are also important, she says. For example, a beautifully sunlit flower vase, or her blossoming garden. Quite.
She is also a lot happier now that she has retired from Parliament. There, she couldn’t stand the lack of collegiality, the gossip, the backstabbing and the opportunism.
Amen! I, too, spent 40 years in the bureaucracy - academia in my case - and I still remember the pain more clearly than the pleasure.
Ms. Verdonk adds that the greatest cost she paid, while in politics, was the violence she did to her body and to her health. Again, I strongly empathize - the stress, the headaches, the power contests, the nitpicking. I too, experienced these very onerous things while surviving the bureaucracy for 40 years, and I am sure they aged me.
On the positive side, again, Ms. Verdonk was always happy when she was able to achieve concrete results, solve problems, contribute to the betterment of society.
This article made me think: I find Ms. Verdonk’s list quite reasonable. But as I look around me - in Europe or in America, doesn’t matter - I see lots of people who find happiness in things which leave me entirely indifferent, and in some cases things which I find downright repulsive.
For one thing, the whole world seems to have become enamored with machines. Cars have made men happy for generations, but now, it’s more the electronic machines which make many people orgasmic - computers, I-phones, digital this and digital that. Both cars and electronics leave me utterly indifferent.
Money is, of course, a perennial. From Wall Street to Main street, the love of money reigns supreme. Many people love money more than the things money buys.
Closely related are possessions. Often, it is the ownership of something which makes people ecstatic, not its use - think of the motor homes and boats parked in many driveways, and hardly ever used, because the owners don’t have the time to use them.
The sensual pleasures are important. Good food, good wine, etc. I’ll go along with this. I enjoy sensual pleasures.
Unfortunately, there are also the pathological sources of happiness: it begins with power over others, which is vastly more common than you might think. Then there is the pleasure many derive out of inflicting pain - teasing, pestering, humiliating, demeaning someone in front of others. This, too, is extremely widespread.
Less sinister is a desire to be popular, successful, admired. I say less sinister, because I confess that I suffer from this need. Additional pathological sources of happiness include gun ownership (“I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands”) , substance abuse, gambling.
The only supremely true sources of happiness are love and beauty (as in Mozart). leave comment here
Saturday, April 23, 2011
By Tom Kando