October 15, 2014
Happiness is the New Black/Gay/Whatever's Hip Now
Yesterday was dominated by a work meeting, and the guest speaker was the author of a book on happiness, how it makes us more productive on the job. Tail, meet dog.
The guy came out wearing a Cheshire grin a mile wide. He was happy, the very definition of happiness! You couldn't accuse him of hypocrisy, that's for sure. He looked like he was on the verge of an ejaculation.
Then he spoke, rapidly, humorously, interestingly. The Good Book unsurprisingly has it right: Science shows it's better to give than to receive, that we are social beings (i.e. “not good for man to be alone” in Genesis), and that habits of gratitude are good.
The workplace execs are fascinating to me in that they so perfectly mirror the zeitgeist. They are nothing if not plugged in and well-connected. This is helpful to me since I'm so semi-divorced from popular culture, business trends, and even the news to some extent. I'm as disconnected as they are connected. And it's good to know what's going on, especially for ostriches.
What companies are learning is it's not what you can contribute but how closely you fit the schema of the perfect employee as defined by studies of the employees of successful companies. Optimists only need apply; competency will follow. Negativity is seen as more dangerous than second-hand smoke now given the contagious nature. Soon those who engage in snark or complaining will be ostracized like smokers. Already our company is hyper-concerned with our physical health given how much skin in the game they have for our health care costs: now they have a dog in the hunt as far as our mental lives, defined by how cheerful we are.
I have mixed emotions. All of this positive thinking is in the biblical camp. And yet...I think of the necessity to vent, of humor, of what Larry David, Seinfeld creator, once said: “Positive is not funny…when you speak in negative terms the more negative, the funnier it is.” (Speaking of humor, funny line from a comedian: “You'll get unconditional love as soon as you do something to deserve it!”)
The guest speaker said that joy is something detached from external circumstances of want or privilege. Very gospel-ish. He said that we don't find happiness in acquiring or even achieving but in the striving, and in that sense I guess I get why God has us in a situation of “constant striving” to paraphrase k.d. Lang.
At Mass the other day the priest gave a pro-life message. He said that how we treat a gift is a reflection of what we think of the giver. To receive a tie and then throw up on it in disgust is to insult the person who gave you the tie. Similarly to the extent we complain about the gift of life we are saying what we think of God. And yet I think of how Job in the OT complained much of the time, understandably, and yet found much favor with God. On the other hand Jesus - who is a type of Job in that he was likewise innocent and suffered - didn't complain about God the Father, that's for sure. Except perhaps about feeling forsaken.
Posted by TS at 2:39 PM