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I read with interest the recent news that the coalition government intend to measure our happiness and discover the GWB (General Wellbeing) of the UK (Read here: BBC Website and here BBC: Website). Of course, this isn’t a new idea for David Cameron (read here: BBC Website). The only difference is that now he is in power he can have a go at implementing some policies to see if it’s possible to gauge the happiness of the country.
A couple of years ago, I brought out a book looking at the Fruit of the Spirit and how they relate to our contemporary context (A Permanent Becoming). In the chapter on Joy, I suggested the postmodern pursuit of happiness and the Christian idea of joy actually have far more in common than we often realise. At the end of the chapter, I mused on the idea that churches should be seen as happiness hubs within our communities given that so much of the research on what makes people truly happy can be found in a Christian theology of Trinity, personhood, creation and eschatology. Here’s some of what I wrote:
One of the Psalmists says this: Your people are wonderful and they make me happy.i
Is church the first place you go to look for happiness?
Lots of people I know think Christians are joyless, when in reality, we should be leaders in the pursuit of happiness. We need big advertising hoardings outside our churches saying ‘Happiness is Here!’
But that means the church has to walk the road that leads to happiness. We need to become living signposts for people to follow towards the Good Life. The elements that produce happiness should be at the centre of our Christian Communities.
People are genuinely looking for a happiness that lasts. So let’s tell them that they can find it with God, through God’s Spirit, within the Christian community, and not play games by pretending that happiness is a worldly pursuit, while we have something altogether better, called joy.
The pursuit of happiness is a legitimate biblical, theological and sociological objective.
My 4 year-old daughter drew this on the front of my birthday card instead of writing ‘Daddy’. I assumed it was a family portrait – which in a way it is – It’s “Jesus and his friends”. Sweet.
I doubt you will love it as much as I do, and it’s hardly the start of a renaissance in religious art, but I thought it was worth sharing all the same.
Given the current context, the recent publication of the National Accounts of Wellbeing from the New Economics Foundation couldn’t be more timely and more fascinating (see HERE; HERE and HERE). There is increasing political interest in such research and indices of human wellbeing and the role these should play in policy making. That’s one reason why I felt the need to flag up such things in my book, A Permanent Becoming, and hopefully play some small part in waking up the Christian Community to the central role it can play in such things.
Though I write specifically about happiness here, the relationship to issues of wellbeing are the same.
Wake Up Call
The search for happiness has a long history.
One ancient Greek Philosopher said something like, ‘No one ever pursues happiness as a means to something else.’ By which, he meant that while you might go after money, or fame, or sex because you think they will bring you happiness, you don’t go after happiness to get . . . well you don’t.
The point is this: the pursuit of happiness is core to who we are. It’s one of the things that all human beings do. Happiness is a uniquely desirable Read the rest of this entry »
‘Greater love has no-one than this,
That he lay down his dancing career for his friends.’
Overnight, our family became a victim of crime for the first time. Which I guess isn’t bad going given that my wife and I are both in our forties. Of course, our daughter is only three, so she’s not doing so well on an age to crime ratio.
Anyway, if you are reading this and you are the praying type, we’d love our car recovered with no damage to it, as it’s the only car we have, and even with an insurance payout we can’t easily afford to replace it as it’s just an old banger, but it’s worth so much to us as a family.
I’ve written several posts about the Happiness Course I attended in Bristol, run by my friend Bruce Stanley. Overall, these posts have drawn by far the most interest, especially links coming in from search engines. I thought it would be appropriate, therefore, to make my first post-proper over on my Permanent Becoming Blog about the issue of Happiness, given the obvious interest the subject generates.
Something that I learned about while on the course, and realised I had mostly lost from my life, is the idea of ‘flow’.
Do you ever do something where your concentration is so intense, your attention so undivided and wrapped up in what you are doing that you sometimes become unaware of things you normally notice?
Do you ever do something where you feel that the activity is worth doing in itself?
Do you ever do something that has provided some unique and very memorable moments – for which you feel extremely lucky and grateful – that has changed your perspective on life (or yourself) in some way?
‘Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.’ (Everybody’s Free: To Wear Suncream – Baz Luhrmann).
I hope Baz Luhrmann is right on this one, because today (Friday 27th June) I turn 40 and I still don’t really know what I want to do with my life.
In my time, I’ve been a student of art and theology. I’ve worked as a photographic technician, and in the newspaper industry. I’ve packed crisps, frozen peas and waited tables. I’ve guided students through distance learning theology degrees, and written dozens of magazine articles and several books. All these things have had their delights and their tedious frustrations. And all have contributed to making me the person I am today – but that person is still not sure what he really wants to do with the years he has post-40.
A few days ago I sat with some friends and watched one of those Rob Bell ‘Nooma’ DVDs. It was called Noise, but it was really about silence – or rather than absence of silence in our lives.
The concept is really clever. As the viewer, you are watching Rob, watching TV. There’s lots of background noise going on. He’s switching channels and adjusting the volume. At times the noise is distracting you from hearing what Rob is trying to say. Then he turns the TV off. There is a blank screen. And there is silence. A silence that you really notice. Which got me thinking. Is silence simply the absence of noise, or is it something more tangible than that? And is it something we should be pursuing?
In 2 weeks time I will have finally left behind my thirties. So what better thing to do on the cusp of such a momentous stage in life than to regress to being 15 one last time and go and see Yazoo, who last performed together 25 years ago.
Within a few electronic pulses of ‘Nobody’s Diary’ I was transported back to impromptu teenage parties, cheap cider, menthol cigarettes and making out with anyone who would. I was rake thin, my clothes were tight and black, my arms adorned with silver bangles; my head with a floppy fringe.
But then I opened my eyes, and I was back in a concert venue, with 3000 of Bristol’s middle-youth, dressed like the middle-class, eco-conscious, balding adult I’ve become. Thankfully, no one had Read the rest of this entry »
As regular readers will know, I’ve been attending a Happiness for Life Course. Well sadly (how ironic) the course finished last week. But that’s OK, because the ending of the course was simply the beginning of the rest of the journey into a happier and more fulfilled way of being – and I’m sure I will continue to blog about my discoveries.
Two things that are currently agitating my happiness genes are the fact that summer is now here and as a way of celebrating this, the annual BBC Spring Watch Programme is currently being shown every night on BBC 2. If you’re not fortunate enough to live in the UK and able to watch Spring Watch live, you can check it out at BBC iPLayer – though episodes are only archived for a week.
But if you really want a treat and something guaranteed to make you feel happy and glad to be alive, then you simply Read the rest of this entry »