By Troy Headrick
This week’s blog was inspired by a couple of conversations I’ve had over the past several days. The first exchange involved one I had with Snapdragon X, a regular contributor here at Pointless Overthinking. She mentioned in her biographical blurb that it was her dream to live in Finland, and I responded by telling her that Denmark would be my country of choice if I were to leave America. (By the way, my wife and I are making serious plans, at the moment of this writing, to leave the United States.)
The second exchange was a conversation I had this past weekend while I was in Georgetown, Texas, a lovely little town just up the highway from Austin, a city that could very credibly claim to be the Lone Star State’s grooviest metropolis.
The conversation I mentioned in the previous paragraph took place around the dinner table. Of course, because I’m such a political person as is my father—I’ve written about him here—and stepmother, the subject of our talk gravitated toward the upcoming Democratic Party’s presidential primary in Texas. Anyway, in the course of our discussion, I mentioned that I’d be voting for Bernie Sanders which prompted my stepmother to say that she “liked” him but that he also made her “nervous.” When I asked her why, she said that the American healthcare system was broken but that she didn’t like “socialized medicine.”
That prompted me to mention Denmark, a country where everyone has equal access to high-quality medical care and how the country is always right at the top of every international happiness index. I encouraged her to do a little research on Denmark and what the Danes have to say about why they are so untroubled. To help her along, I found the following video and showed it to her.
My favorite part was hearing Mike Viking, the CEO of The Happiness Institute in Copenhagen, say, quite interestingly, that the Danes are incredibly happy because they are the “least unhappy” in the world.
His quote rocked me. I’d always thought about happiness in a positive sense. Happiness was the acquisition of a certain emotional state. I’d never thought of defining felicity in negative terms, as being determined by the absence of those things that upset or sadden us. Viking, in other words, had turned my understanding of happiness upside down. It’s not so much something we get that makes us happy; it’s whether or not we are able to avoid negative influences in our lives.
This gets us back to the Danish welfare state. Because the government works hard to remove the sort of obstacles that can keep its citizens from self-actualizing, many, in fact, are free to reach their full human potential which, in turn, provides them with the opportunity to live something akin to the perfect life. This explains something else in the video—what true happiness feels like. It’s not necessarily a kind of giddiness; it’s more a deep sense of contentment.
What do you think about all this? I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.