Happiness


       I told Camp that I read an interview about a group of researchers at Harvard that had been studying the same 724 men from Boston for over 80 years. They have been observing and interviewing the study participants since 1938, since they were teenagers. One of the boys was future President John F. Kennedy. 40 of the men are still alive today, now around 100 years old. These researchers began studying their children and grandchildren decades ago and eventually included their spouses as well.
          ‘I hope some interesting conclusions can be drawn from this long observation span, I’m sure.’ Camp said. ‘Did they figure out what makes a good life? The key to happiness? Can you be happy without your own family? Is it possible to escape a difficult childhood and still live contentedly?’  
‘Robert Waldinger, the current director of the study supplied some answers in the interview. Strangely, they all struck me as common sense and I didn’t really learn anything that I didn’t know already. Like the conclusions that a healthy diet, a comfortable median income, stable relationships and nurturing friendships all make for a happier life than one of addiction, unhealthy eating habits, poverty, estrangement from family and friends. Apparently, stress, be it existential like wobbly jobs and marriages or poverty makes for an unhappier life than a stable existence surrounded by loved ones.’               
‘Really?’ Camp said, somewhat cynical.  ‘How about the fact that money doesn’t buy happiness but financial security buys peace of mind, resulting in less stress. It took all those resources and brainiacs to come to these conclusions?’               ‘Well yes Camp, I thought the same thing. Guess what, one of the happiest participants wasn’t the richest or the most successful but a teacher who lived a life full of compassion for his pupils and his family, always putting the community ahead of personal needs and finding satisfaction and happiness in the achievement of others under his tutelage or within his realm of influence.’                ‘Ok, I get it. A windfall from a lottery ticket or a goal in a soccer match gives one a burst of happiness that lasts a short time but when a pupil graduates and thanks the teacher or when a charitable involvement results in the betterment of the recipients, that kind of satisfaction goes a lot further. What astonished me is that it took dozens of academics, psychiatrists and psychologists over 80 years to come to these conclusions when they could have just asked themselves.’        
  ‘Kind of reminds me of a story about this hermit who after many decades of meditation finally mastered how to walk on water. ‘For a few coins you could have taken the ferry, the buddha is known to have said to the pious sage.’        
  ‘Ok, so the key to happiness is: help those around you, reciprocate and nurture the love of your friends and family, be humble and fair and enjoy the life you have.’          ‘You’re now sounding like some wise guy. Just enjoy the beer, the pristine vistas and the company you have. That includes Vicky who just happens to be on her game today,’ Camp said with an appreciative nod to our server’s perfect timing with two fresh frosty mugs.           
   

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