I enjoy going to your showings at the Grand Theatre, but usually they're a bit of a downer. After all, economic inequality, pollution, environmental degradation, and other socially significant subjects aren't exactly smile-inducers.
But happiness is. I hugely enjoyed learning about what contributes to happiness from experts in psychology, and also seeing happy people in action.
Here's some themes from the movie that I remember.
Flow. Yeah, flowing with life is the way to go. There was quite a bit of talk about flow, losing yourself in an activity to such an extent there's minimal difference between you and what you're doing. In other words, your focus is on the here and now, not the there and then.
I recall that during a narration of what flow means, the screen briefly showed a skateboarder sliding down a handrail. Being a geezer skateboarder/longboarder myself, my inner dude said right on.
Along this line, I'll take this opportunity to premiere my own cinematic creation, the considerably less entertaining You Tube video that I filmed, directed, and starred in on the very afternoon before I watched The Happy Movie: "Big Stick longboarding, senior citizen style."
Risking my iPhone, I Kahuna Big Stick my way down a trail one-handed, videoing my marvelous 64 year old longboarding technique. Note the (accidental) cinematic effect at the end, where my dark glasses reflect my longboard rolling back down the slope toward me. Oscar for short subject, please!
This is an example of flow. I really enjoy longboarding because when I do it (up to four miles now), I'm really just doing it. Since I've only been into longboarding for about three months, my skills, and lack thereof, require me to focus pretty intensely on what's coming up on the trail.
A rock, twig, broken pavement, sudden steep spot -- those sorts of things are a bigger deal to beginner me than they would be to a young dude or dudette who grew up with a skateboard as almost a bodily appendage. So I can't let my mind wander, enhancing a sense of flow.
Pleasingly, "The Happy Movie" showed examples of people who are still flowing with activities that they're experts in. Like a Brazilian surfer of indeterminate age (fifties?) who spoke movingly of what it means to him to become part of a wave on his board.
Compassion and service. Most of us wouldn't consider caring for the dying in a Calcutta center run by the Mother Teresa organization to be happiness-inducing. But the movie showed a man who had happily been there for over a decade, giving food and drink to the terminally ill, cleaning their sores, replacing their bandages.
He was a Catholic, yet didn't emphasize the religious side of his service. He felt good helping others. I had the feeling that he'd be doing the same thing even if there wasn't a theological justification for his compassion.
This is borne out by studies which show that everywhere around the world, among believers and nonbelievers alike, people enjoy helping other people. Along with helping animals and the environment. Meditation was discussed in the movie, the sort of compassion-centered "may all be happy" meditative exercises favored by Buddhism.
Wishing other people good, even your enemies, makes you happy. I need to remember this the next time (which will be soon, believe me) I read or hear someone making a political assertion contrary to mine that deeply irritates me.
I guess a place to start would be a minimalist compassion meditation like, "May those fucking idiots who haven't a clue be happy... and also wake up to the correct political point of view, which just happens to be mine, as soon as possible."
Hey, got to start somewhere.
Being social. I was surprised to hear in the movie that Japan is the least happy industrialized country in the world. The scenes of Japanese life, which admittedly were chosen to make that point, certainly reflected that. Japanese people seemingly are still heavy on the "workaholic" side of the scale, with too many leading emotionally isolated lives.
By contrast, a divorced woman in Denmark (I believe it was) is shown living happily with her child in a shared housing setup -- where families have individual living spaces, but share cooking, child care, and other duties.
She spoke about how great it was to only have to cook dinner for everybody once or twice a month, rather than prepare an evening meal for her own family every day. Plus, the social support she got from like-minded housing companions meant a lot to her.
Okinawa was presented as an interesting counter to nearby Japan. On that island people still live close to the earth, gardening for the pleasure of it, as well for the need of it. Relating to nature isn't the same as relating to humans. However, happiness is enhanced by feeling close to the natural world, just as being with other people makes us happy.
(Usually. I've been at some social gatherings that made me yearn for an isolation cell in a penitentiary.)
The Okinawans appear to have a marvelously age-integrated culture. Instead of the young doing their thing, and the elderly theirs, different generations rarely meeting, "The Happy Movie" showed Okinawa children and elders dancing and playing together.
If you ever have a chance to see the film, do it. Likely it'll make you happy. I agreed with almost everything I saw in the movie. Except perhaps, the oft-heard admonition that once people attain a decent standard of living, getting more material stuff doesn't make them happier.
Getting the iPhone 5 after being stuck with an iPhone 4 for ages (OK, two and a half years, but it felt like eternity) has made me really happy. Being able to upgrade my aging 13 inch MacBook Pro laptop to a retina display model would make me even happier.
Are you listening, Apple? How about contributing to an increase in the world's happiness level by releasing a 13 inch Retina MacBook Pro at the same time as the rumored iPad Mini this month?