Are you happy? Strange question to ask given the current situation, but relevant nonetheless. A few weeks ago, the World Happiness Report was released. It is the "landmark survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be." It didn't get picked up by news outlets much as there has been another big story occupying headlines and frankly, it would seem ironic to talk about a nation's happiness during a lockdown. But Canada noticed. It slipped from 9th place last year to 11th happiest nation in the world this year. Not bad but when the trend is going downward perhaps it's time to look at why. Recently, Ottawa announced it will be looking into creating a budget that would look into other factors such as happiness and wellbeing when considering its national budgets. And while some think it is unrealistic, even frivolous, others don't (just look at Bhutan and its Gross National Happiness). The senior executive team at the David Suzuki Foundation, an environmental charity in Canada wrote an Op-Ed in the Ottawa Citizen addressing the need for governments like Canada to evolve into a more sustainable way of thinking as the current measures of a country's success are not enough anymore. They wrote, "At its core, GDP economics is all about how fast we can convert nature’s resources to money using the cheapest possible labour. When we asked Canadians in town halls if that was the kind of growth they expected from their economy, the answer was a resounding no." Happiness is subjective but at its core, we all want the same things--to be happy--and what that entails for most of us is a feeling of being loved, and feeling that we matter. Take Drake for example, he has built a multi million dollar mansion in Toronto complete with all the trappings of a luxury life including a regulation size basketball court, swimming pool, and all the custom fixtures that scream wealth. For him though, it comes down to legacy telling Architectural Digest, "I wanted to make sure people can see the work I’ve put in over the years reflected from every vantage point...Because I was building it in my hometown, I wanted the structure to stand firm for 100 years. I wanted it to have a monumental scale and feel. It will be one of the things I leave behind, so it had to be timeless and strong." Architecture and reflecting the needs and desires of its inhabitants don't always mix. In fact, a lot of the time egos are involved. But for the legendary designer and architect Eileen Gray, it was fundamental that a structure, the bricks and mortar, not be the focus instead it should be the person in it. Cloé Pitiot, curator of an exhibition of Gray's work told the BBC, "Architecture for her is a form of journey, an accompaniment for the body and mind of its inhabitant. Through her architectural proposals, she sought to achieve a form of symbiosis between the landscape, space, furniture, body, and soul." A symbiosis that allows for what the Chinese would call Chi, energy flow, and when the energy flows freely we are in a state of true happiness. Designer Roksanda Illinčić, who has been an admirer of Gray's work, talks about how architecture, at its core, is to create shelter and she uses that concept when designing clothes saying, "I feel that houses, our flats are built to protect us, to shelter us, to be a certain sort of refuge.And I always wanted to take that and try to express this through my clothing, something that is sheltering us and making us almost like a better person.” For her, what brings her joy and so much inspiration is something as simple as a chair.
For me, it comes down to practising being present, and recognising what I can control and what I can't. And this life, well, it isn't just about me. Perhaps it's the Sikh in me where I was taught that life is bigger than me but that I do have a role on this earth: to serve and to help where I can; to recognise that I am part of a wider community and that we are all connected.
The Dalai Lama said, "In order to be happy we must first possess inner contentment; and inner contentment doesn't come from having all we want; but rather from wanting, appreciating and being grateful for all we have.” Contentment may sound dull but it is actually one of the most powerful forces within us, keeping us grounded, and perhaps one of the most difficult states of mind to achieve after all, we have been taught to look outside of ourselves to be relevant. The thing is, we can strive for the world, we can desire and have ambitions, but the highs we get will come and go. What remains and what is constant is the love and acceptance we have for ourselves and the gratitude we feel for just being here.
It's as Richard Ashcroft wrote (and sings) in one of my favourite songs Lucky Man,
"Happiness Coming and going I watch you look at me Watch my fever growing I know just who I am But how many corners do I have to turn? How many times do I have to learn All the love I have is in my mind.. Well, I'm a lucky man With fire in my hands..."
Take care of yourselves, Monita xo