Imagine you have a choice between earning $50,000 a year while other people make $25,000 or earning $100,000 a year while other people get $250,000. Prices of goods and services are the same. Which would you prefer? Surprisingly, studies show that the majority of people select the first option. As H. L. Mencken is said to have quipped, "A wealthy man is one who earns $100 a year more than his wife's sister's husband."
This seemingly illogical preference is just one of the puzzles that science is trying to solve about why happiness can be so elusive in today's world. Several recent books by researchers address the topic, but my skeptic's eye found a historian's long-view analysis to be ultimately the most enlightening.
Consider a paradox outlined by London School of Economics economist Richard Layard in Happiness (Penguin, 2005), in which he shows that we are no happier even though average incomes have more than doubled since 1950 and "we have more food, more clothes, more cars, bigger houses, more central heating, more foreign holidays, a shorter working week, nicer work and, above all, better health." Once average annual income is above $20,000 a head, higher pay brings no greater happiness. Why? One, our genes account for roughly half of our predisposition to be happy or unhappy, and two, our wants are relative to what other people have, not to some absolute measure.
Here is the rest of the article:(Can't Get No) Satisfaction
Now, this brings me to the recent craze over the new self-help book "The Secret" which is spreading like wild fire thanks to Oprah.
Oprah Oprah Oprah......you've accomplished so much. You're our "national treasure". You've done an incredible amount of good. You have the power to influence the lives of millions. I remember thinking not too long ago -- "Imagine what the world would be like if Oprah were in charge...."
(I don't know why, but Newton's 3 laws of motion just came into my mind here, especially the 3rd law:
Whenever A exerts a force on B, B simultaneously exerts a force on A with the same magnitude in the opposite direction. The strong form of the law further postulates that these two forces act along the same line.)
Anywho, her belief in "The Secret" explains a lot about what we frequently talk about here at Blondesense: THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY ARE IN TOTAL DENIAL.
And after reading the following two commentaries, I've come to realize that Oprah probably IS in charge, but we just don't know it.
Both of these authors have a bone to pick with her and I give each an A+ for persuasive writing.
Chris Floyd TOTALLY rips her a new one in
The Story of O: An Empty Spot in the Middle of American Culture. Most of his article is in reference to Peter Birkenhead's essay over at Salon - "Oprah's ugly secret" (By continuing to hawk "The Secret," a mishmash of offensive self-help cliches, Oprah Winfrey is squandering her goodwill and influence, and preaching to the world that mammon is queen.)
And Ingrid Hansen Smythe is most eloquent in her review from The Skeptic:
The Secret Behind the Secret. She cites examples of (Ask — Believe — Receive) vs. (Idea-Action-Results).
And lil 'ol me thinks that the ScientificAmerica article says it all:
"Much of our happiness depends on projecting what will make us happy (instead of what actually does), Happiness is better equated with satisfaction than pleasure, "because the pursuit of pleasure lands us on a never-ending hedonic treadmill that paradoxically leads to misery. "Satisfaction is an emotion that captures the uniquely human need to impart meaning to one's activities,"
"Satisfaction can arise only by the conscious decision to do something. And this makes all the difference in the world, because it is only your own actions for which you may take responsibility and credit."
I don't have diddly squat
It's not having what you want
It's wanting what you've got
I'm gonna soak up the sun(great video)
While it's still free
I'm gonna soak up the sun
Before it goes out on me
Gonna tell everyone
To lighten up
crossposted at BigBrassBlog
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