Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dont Worry. Be Happy

Bobby McFerrin rode to fame in 1988 with his album Simple Pleasures, where he scored a chart-topping pop smash with "Don't Worry, Be Happy". But last week The Economist , yes that purveyor of the dismal science, joined the ranks of sappy happiness Gurus when it tried to analyze why people are not getting any happier even as the world economy is on its way to notching up its best decade ever. Market capitalism is doing its job well in terms of raising living standards but not necessarily making people happier which may be best left to saints and philosophers.

There are some fundamental problems according to The Economist. Capitalism is highly efficient in bringing to the masses what only a few elite enjoyed - cars, fashion goods, gourmet food, exotic vacations. But these luxuries soon become necessities. Once you are on the tiger you cannot dismount.

Second, there are a set of good and services that people believe will make them happy that are limited by necessity. These "positional goods" such as a a tony address or a fancy car or a top education lose their value if everyone has it. So a Harvard degree is no longer prized if everyone who applies is accepted into the program irrespective of the intrinsic value of a superior edification of the mind.

The race to be happy forces people to climb to the highest rung of the social ladder which forces others to climb harder and faster to keep up. What is the point?

As The Economist editorial concluded, "Capitalism can make you well off. And it also leaves you free to be as unhappy as you choose. To ask any more of it would be asking too much". I must admit that, John Micklethwait, the 16th editor of the August publication does have a sense of humor.

59 comments: said...

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CoralPoetry said...


Congratulations on becoming a Blog of Note. Noteworthy, indeed!


CoralPoetry said...


Thank you for the fabulous photos. I love the elephants stomping through the bar looking for tidbits. I like the way they pick your pockets for buns and stuff. I just love elephants. More elephants, please.


Elizabeth Burke said...

Hi. Your writing is entrancing. Thank you for sharing your travels and writing and pictures.

Elizabeth (

superstar said...

good picture

Anonymous said...

Did the Economist mention anything about greed? That is what really makes people unhappy for eternity!

michaela said...

Trying to make happiness out of the capitalistic system seems self-defeating. So you get the car you want. There will always be something better out there which will take away from the enjoyment of having the car you just worked so hard to purchase. And even if you had all the money in the world, that luxury obviously would take away from the appreciation of anything you possess. Happiness is outside of "stuff."

Great blog.

babydoll said...

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CollegeBoy said...

Nice blog you have here. Know what makes me happy? Doing my research, placing a few nice sized wagers, and relaxing to watch a game. Well, that's just one of the things that makes me happy. It's it's the little things that capitalism forgets about, cliche as that may sound, but it's true. It's all about the little things.

Peter said...

The amazing thing about happiness is that each of us has a different definition of it. Each of us is happy for different reasons. Some of us for no reason at all.

Capitalism is designed to provide mass quanitities of items to those who can pay for them. The more attention paid to an item, the more efficiently it is produced. This implies that people who don't know what makes them happy, simply go along for the ride rather than persue their dreams.


Tohou Lidia said...

I agree- i'm so sick of continually wanting for things! Everything is material now and success is viewed by the size of your house or the model of your car. It's ridiculous. I think to be truly happy you should be doing things by your own accord - not others.
P.S. Congrats on being a blog of note, that's how i got here!

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Tazz said...

We always try so hard to be happy with what we got, but the truth is we need to find happiness within us to be truly happy with life itself.

Nathan said...

Happiness to me really comes down to being with and enjoying the people I love. I believe this is universally true. The materialism rat race can distract you from the people that are important in your life. Think of all the movies where the dad goes out to work hard to provide the best possible life for his family while he misses the daily hapiness he could of been sharing with them. People + Time + Relating = happiness.

Nice blog

Mrs.andMr.Fucker said...

We're all just looking for love. We have to learn how to really love ourselves first.

Lisas healthy solutions said...

very nice blog and beautiful pictures!

I think the secret to happiness is to simply love that you are alive.

Life is an opportunity not an obligation.

I would love you to checkout my blog and give your opinion...

Debbirooni said...

wow this is very interesting and very true.

aha! i like what you have to say =)

yana said...

hello. =) blog hopping =) nice blog.

Renegade said...

Happiness is the most powerful drug on the planet!

Check out Renegade's BS

Anonymous said...

Amazing site but you don't talk about cats much. You do know I hate them? Right?

narendra shenoy said...

You write well, my friend, and you have that one characteristic of great writers - you make your readers want to read on. I really dont have much of a style or content comment to make - I'm pretty much a doof in such matters - but I do love reading and its such a joy to find stuff like this.

David said...

Bobby McFarri didn't have to explain what 'dont worry be happy' meant. There are experiences beyond 'stuff' that have resonance.

New productions online are speaking to this---beyond today's cheap 'sale price' stuff.

Try this.

Robert said...

Very True indeed. With so much commodification of products and services, capitalism has indeed harmed mankind's satisfaction and contentment levels. Congratulations for being named a Blog of Note!! Do have a look at my blog Funholidaygreetings and celebrate some warm smiles with Smile Day ecards :)Robert

Two Cents said...

Great blog!

It is true that there is nothing worse than getting what we want. Fuel to the fire...

We need to reshape our definition of living well and add more of an emphasis on the internal.

R. Anthony Lee said...

Anyone who who thinks having all the material and status-related crap you list will make you happy is an imbecile--which probably makes most economists imbeciles. And anyone who thinks being "happy" is related to not worrying is also an imbecile.

As an obnoxious teenager, I loved to go around quoting the last two lines of Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex": "Call no man happy who is not dead; only the dead are free from pain." Maybe a little extreme, but that's Greek tragedy for you.

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thanh7580 said...

Wow what a coincidence. I was just scrolling through the blogs of note on Blogger and opened your site. And what's the first post I see, a post entitled "Don't Worry, Be Happy" which starts off by using Bobby McFerrin's song. I just wrote the same thing a couple of days ago. My post has the same title and used the song as a starting point too. My post was more about not worrying too much about things in life that you can't make better through just worrying.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the posts in that we need to remember to seperate or distinguish happiness from acquisition. Acquisition may facilitate happiness but that is all.

However, conversely I believe this distinction becomes blurred when one cannot acquire items relating to the/a lifestyle deemed "culturally" average, items considered fundamentals or necessities FOR ONES ENVIRONMENT.

That is where the root of unhappiness really lies.

Unhappiness is really a matter of social circumstance or pressure, a matter of SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT, rather than possession.

If I were in Africa sleeping in a small room on a dirty floor I might be content and considered well off, by the mere fact of having obtained shelter. However, living in America under the same circumstances, I would definitely not find esteem in most corners/eyes. And this lack of esteem, this environmentally universal negative social judgement is what (I believe) causes most people unhappiness, and prompts or invokes participation in "the rat race," or, the race for consumption.

As another responder noted, we are all seeking esteem, or love if you will - or perhaps better said -
simply the absence of a strong, universally negative global/environmental social judgement/pressure against us.

It (this negative pressure) is nothing particularly tangible or even consciously 'perceived.'

And yet, it is a fully present lesson or energy - reinforced every day, and many times each day, and likely in many different ways, each day, within ones social context.

Ask yourself for example, if you would really and truly care if your shirt was old or torn (or perhaps, less than stylish), if it covered you and keep you warm and protected from the essential elements. Would you honestly care??? In truth, probably not.

However, when your father asks you, "Why do you have that old rag on?" and your boy or girlfriend makes eyes at a sophisticatedly dressed man or woman who has just passed you, and your neighbors huddle together and gossip about the condition of the clothes you're wearing, or perhaps the state of your vehicle - you must admit, that you have just felt substantial pressure to conform to your environments social standards (and all this social pressure & judgement in perhaps under an hour, just one hour of 24 hours of one day - multiply that out in terms of possibility - in terms of potential or likely 'intangible' force/pressure or "social conscious/ness" exerted on you daily, weekly, annually) - despite the fact that what you are wearing and what you own/drive are operable and/or essentially fine. And despite the fact that you are (or were) content with your possessions.

In summary:

Social pressure is the root of consumer/individual unhappiness AND the rapid absorption of our resources.

Hopefully, we will (as a community) snap to our senses, and reevaluate our needs and priorities, before our environment and our resources, can no longer support us.

Thanks for listening/reading/the platform ( ; I would love to hear what you think ...

Anonymous said...

:)! Gopi Your big news here...

katpop said...

congrats on making "blogs of note"!

melanie said...

Hey, Great blog and a post I can totally agree with!

We are, to a degree, forced into a way of life that means more often that not we are living to work, rather than working to live. Chasing money to allow us to buy the latest accessory or to buy things to make up for the fact we have little time for anything else..Forced to believe that such things will make us happy...often brainwashed into thinking it will..Its sad really but it keeps the 'big guys' happy I suppose.....


Yours Truly said...

This is truly an extraordinary blog. Thanks so very much for the trip to Iceland. Quite a new experience for me.

Hepzibah The Watchman said...

We never own 'stuff'. It owns us because every new thing requires care and upkeep, stealing our precious time and creating more stress in our lives.

People are not happy because they misinterpret happiness. Happiness is not a feeling; it is a decision.

May God bless you, indeed.

East of Oregon said...

interesting blog! I mentioned you today.. take care:)

Path to happiness said...

Great post! So true. Check out my blog for a path to peace and happiness.

Weather Girl said...

I've always considered it greed... but then, I don't suppose people don't know they're being greedy. Thanks for sharing.

Ellen said...

I enjoyed reading your blog. Congratulations on being a blog of note. To me, by the amount of responses you've gotten, happiness seems to be on our minds. I really like the fact that most everyone has either found a solution, is searching for an answer, or is aware that there is more to life. So exciting. I love your sharing your approach to life & your pics & travels. Thank you. Ellen, Secret Life of a Quantum Particle, myriadcascades

Melissa Flowers said...

happiness is in our minds and hearts. having more stuff just makes us worry about losing stuff. being popular makes us worry bout being unpopular.

Anonymous said...

You're blog is great! I think it's very inpiring. I think it also reflects the kind of person you are...someone whose happiness is to put a smile on other people's faces.^^

Skylyn said...

I appreciate the time and energy you put into your blog. Very thought provoking and your pictures are breath taking.
Thank you~ Skylyn

Anonymous said...

Great post, Gopi. This is my first blog reading, by the way, and now I feel like I've been missing out on worlds and worlds of great discussion and writing out there.
As an individual who's constantly tempted to materialism (and only occasionally avoiding it), I want to say a few things:
First, who taught us that things will bring us happiness? Obviously, those enterprising capitalists who are trying to sell us something.
Second, I'd have to say that it's a far more complicated relationship between happiness and material possessions than we're giving it credit. As another blogger above noted, it's a matter of our perception that depends on our social circumstance - yes, someone in a small village in Africa would feel well off with shelter, but here in the US, we would absolutely feel unhappy and horribly deprived of a tv, cable, internet access, etc. That's not just because of social pressure, but because it is part of the world we are engaging. It would be wrong to deny those "needs" too simply as artificial. Our entire world and worldview is constructed.
Third, I wouldn't say that happiness has nothing to do with having things. I think happiness has to do with having those things we value. The secret is of course managing which things are worthy of value and which are not. Working for what one desires can bring happiness - both in the sheer success, the pride and what it makes possible.
I myself don't like the "Don't Worry, be happy" refrain - sometimes worry, anger, anxiety are a good thing, to motivate where motivation is required.
I look forward to more posts!

SriniDesika said...

Hi Gopi, thanks for your blog that Iwould like to re-read and think about! Animals teach us what human beings have got out of their system and forgotten.
I have seen families living on pavements not knowing where the next meal was going to come from. When their baby does something new or funny a smile lights up the face of the parents. At that moment they are truly happy. And they don't think whether they are happy or not.

Jason D. said...

I read this article as well and I was pleased to see that economists are capable of focusing on what is important in life rather that what is the most efficient way to produce and distribute goods. But as the basic principles of economics say, "there are unlimited wants, and limited resources". To pursue one's wants endlessly will lead to nothing but failure and misery. Great Blog. Thanks.

Roxy said...

In your entry before last, you
mentioned that you listened to Bob Dylan- one of the best singers alive in my opinion. Some of my favorite lyrics come from him.
"Everyone everywhere has a gift- and you know this was meant to be true- so don't underestimate me, and i won't underestimate you."
How different would the world be if we didn't judge or consider others by the car they drive or the house they live in....
Nice Blog by the way....good luck!

Anonymous said...

GREAT BLOG! We should all live richly and happily... :-)

Home decor is more inspirational then one might think! Indeed the more organized and decorated your home is the better mood you will be in. This is something to take seriously.
I heard about this new site that will be up and running the end of February. It might have great ideas? The site is Random Home Decor is a online home decor retailer. Home decor for your kitchen, bath, living room, bedrooms, and more! Random Home Decor offers a variety of products including bamboo, furniture, oil paintings, rugs, candles, Asian inspired and more!

BeautyIsRelative said...

hey, don't worry, be happy :)

Roz said...

I think that happiness is best understood from the film 'The Graduate.'

In the film, the character - played by Dustin Hoffman - stumbles around being rather gloomy all day & every day, then he finds something. Not only is this thing a desire, this thing he can get, there's a chance. The chase begins, the tension mounts, there's static in the air - and yes - he gets the girl; happiness, laughs, smiles, peace turns to nostalga cause the moment has passed; he has got the girl, quiet, what now, what's left?

The same gloomy emptiness.

Lisa said...

As long as you are in a state of "wanting" you will never find happiness because you will never stop. I offer suggestions to living a simple life. Check it out

Eureka said...

Yo yo yo! Nice blog. Not that my opinion is ever taken seriously. I am an evil vacuum afterall...

Deb said...

To me, happiness is in your heart and soul. Am I truly happy with myself? is the real question. There is a saying "To thine ownself be true". To know oneself, the shortcomings, the abstract things that make one happy, the eccentricities, our vulnerabilities, what we enjoy doing in life and why; these are the things that one must answer realistically. All lives are ordinary but absolute love is not.
I am basically a happy person but if I ride the fast train of capitalism or any politically or religious philosophy, it becomes boring for me in the end and stresses me out. I need to "stop and smell the roses" often.
It doesn't do any good to worry, because it just makes thinks worst.If something bothers me that much I just tell myself, "It is all going to work out and it always does". One must look over the illusion of materialism and ways of the world and see their genuine happiness as it really, truly is right in front of our noses all the time. A beatiful flower, a baby's smile, people you enjoy working with, an elderly person smiles at you and you respectively smile back: sharing your love with someone; helping someone.
And sometimes the nature of the beast comes out and growls once and a while but we are only human and this is part of our makeup. Forgive yourself and others.
Life is like a short summer. Do the best that you can. Everybody's best is not always the same. So, who cares???? One needs to be happy with themselves first then all the rest folds in naturally. We are all like artists painting our pictures on the canvas of life. Shakespeare said, "We are all actors on the stage of life". How true!!!!
Love your blog and great pictures of elephants and Iceland. I may not be correct, but I think Iceland is the first country to have a "hydrogen station" instead of a gas station for a fuel alternative for cars. I saw this on either PBS, a public station, or national geographic.
Love your writing too!!! Cheers!!!

Anonymous said...

The world is flat, Thuvakudi is only a plane hop away.

Chris Bassoo said...

posted by Chris Bassoo

Congrats on being blogger of note, great blog and great information....warmest of regards from Christopher Bassoo

globalchameleon said...

Great post! Definitely having security, the essentials and the means to do what you want in life helps out a lot...but in my experience, I saw more smiles in my travels in Central America and Africa than I often do in my American neighborhood which includes Tiffany's, Brooks Brothers and Gucci

Random Magus said...

I think happiness is just one of those things that happens when you are not analysing. Our persective on happiness is skewed I think - we think happiness is grandoise it announces itself with a bang.. when in reality happiness lies in the moments. Sharing something I wrote on happiness

"Can you pinpoint the moment you were happy?
Can you even remember it?
And what is happiness?
A sense of possibility?
Of omnipotence and potential?
A promise of things to come?
Do we analyze it so much... .. that we miss the moment?
Can this be happiness?
Just moments?
Just the pureness of an ephereal moment?

Anonymous said...

I think happiness is contentment. Whether you have lots or just a little. Its being grateful for what you have..... food, shelter, friends. One could wait for happiness by always desiring more...... but then will happiness ever be attained?

Jude's BlogLoggin said...

Love the sentence "once on the tiger you cannot dismount" How true!

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