How is the planet feeling? Are we in a good mood? Do we see a bright future filled with joyous harmony?
I fear that humanity has never felt this way. Obviously, through our darkest hours, we have felt despair. But have we felt satisfied during our enlightened times? Did Florence and Venice rejoice during the Renaissance? Did their citizens wake up every day with a feeling of self-realization or were they nervous, unsure and otherwise not willing to jump into the bath of exhilaration?
I’m thinking that humans, despite all our technology, medical advances, travel possibilities and unlimited access to excess, just cannot be happy, not collectively anyway. Sure, there are some happy people. I like to think that I’m one of them. But why is it that our collective vision of the world is negative?
I understand that not all parts of the world do well at the same time. It’s understandable for a society to mourn when a tsunami or an earthquake kill hundreds of thousands. But why don’t we enjoy the good times when they really are good?
The greater question, for me and from my professional slant, is the necessary pressure point. Should we be trying to make individuals happy or should we try to get societies to change their mood? How, you ask, can you change a social mood? The way to do it is by both changing individuals’ own perception while asking them to spread it. We need people to want to live in a happy society, to understand its added value and to realize that we will not attain it without their own input.
Why change it? Why make things feel better if they are not? But they are! They are good, despite the bad. I tell friends who seek happiness that they have been focussing on the 1% of their lives that is going poorly. Usually, 99% of our lives are great but that 1% of grief gets all the attention. Society has done the same. Collectively we have opted to look at our problems more than at our successes. Careful, this does not mean that all is rosy and that we can stop worrying. We still need to address the key social issues that face us during this critical century. But we can do so with a collective sense of purpose; we can do it together.