I’m still coming down from my New York monkey-moon – swinging from one big long street to another, grazing through Central Park where a jazz band plays sounding like heaven plays in a stone amphitheater, a blues group gives up songs that made the soul feel kissed and a trumpet player lilts across childhood dreams with a pure and sweet rendition of Louis Armstrong’s When You Wish Upon a Star. And all this after tasting Frank Lloyd Wright’s nautilus and room after room of ancient Greek sculptures and earthen ware. It’s all a money-moon – a lovely dream like stage that exists in a space fueled by the improbable- and maybe- impossible.
There is something about New York that feels so very right- we talk of urban development verses “development” of greenfields, and in New York, it feels like maybe all our dreams could come true. Yet there is something about New York that feels so very wrong. You wonder why the roof-tops are not filled with vegetables and flowers, and where the trees are. You take the plane ride home and see miles after miles of our altered landscape.
It was at midnight, walking from Times Square where a huge illuminated billboard spun off beautiful images of nature across the United States that mesmerized the eyes, mind and heart that the question was posed to me: what if happiness – well-being- results in un-sustainability. I had not thought of that, had assumed that in a world where there is well-being, - where all hearts are healthy, all actions are conscientious of tomorrow’s generations - in that world, we are all meeting the “needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
And so, feet to pavement at one in the morning, walking 8th avenue to Greenwich village, my mind filled with fatigue and wonder, I contemplated whether this effort toward happiness (well-being) could be antithetical to sustainability. Would we end up in a world where the only nature was billboards with pretty pictures of Utah sunsets and Alaskan Caribou? Or where our grandchildren’s children would struggle to find energy or a safe place because we spent all the oil and melted all the glaciers? Could we have happiness for all right here right now and hurt the future?
I don’t think so. While part of our brains are programmed for the short term, a part of us also wants to take care of future generations, wants to know we left a planet better than we found it. And so, while The Happiness Initiative, and the Gross National Happiness movement is not yet overtly addressing sustainability in terms of future generations, I think, inherently, it does. It does in several ways- one in promoting individuals thoughtful assessment of their role in our world, and a deeper meaning to life, another through pairing the survey results with objective indicators that help tell a balanced picture – one that encompasses caring for the future.
And on this new moon night, this first evening of spring, I will enjoy this monkey-moon slight infatuation with New York, swinging from the memories, from the delusions that city brings. And I believe the landing is soft, and this seminal question about the project is a good one, and one for which, once we put it to words- and metrics – we have a good answer.
Posted by Laura Musikanski, ED of HI