There has to be a country in this world that’s happier than all the rest of us, if only by a teeny little bit. I’m going to find it and go there, and live there for a year and write a book about what it’s like to live in that happier country. How did they get that way? And is it worth it? For instance, if everyone had a frontal lobotomy or takes government issued drugs, then it’s probably not worth it.
But if I have to give up a little of my treasured American individuality and try hard to fit in, would I, could I, do it? If in return, I got to be happy?
I have a theory it will be a culture where people forgive each other more easily than we do. I think, in my theory, holding anger and rage inside and carrying a grudge against your mother or father or husband or wife all your life — that’s what leads to suffering. Not being able to let the past go.
Now I am the least likely person to let the past go, as you can tell if you’re reading The Walrus. I’ve always had a problem understanding quite where the past stops and the present begins. One’s as clear to me as the other and when I’m out hiking and fall into a reverie about my Dad and all he meant to me, both good and bad, or when I think of the suffering I lived through during my first marriage so long ago – it’s all just as real as the pine tree I am passing. And I start experiencing that time again.
But it doesn’t hurt. I made peace. I forgave everybody and I hope they have forgiven me too. I can’t let the past go, but why should I? It’s clean in my heart. I love my first wife and I look forward to seeing her. She is sewn into my heart, OK? We went through too much together to just say ta-ta. And I know she is cool with me too.
So, does that make me happy? Oh yes, back to my book idea. Here’s my axiom of the day: A society that forgives each other is a happier society! Just hot air of course. I have not a breath of statistical evidence, although anecdotal evidence may be on my side. No country keeps statistics on forgiveness. But I bet a lot of people would like to know what really does make a happier society, if they thought about it.
Here are some things countries do keep statistics on. For instance:
Alcohol and drug abuse.
Maybe you can think of some more. If so, please write in. I think finding countries with the lowest rates of those sad acts could be a good starting place.
I’d start by going to the United Nations and finding out what records they keep. Maybe I’d have to go to embassies of all the different countries. Or maybe I’ll find everything I need on the internet.
Of course, by depending on statistics I’m selecting out countries that don’t keep accurate statistics. Perhaps I should write another axiom: “A country that keeps poor statistics is an unhappy country.” That would save me a lot of work. Shall I rule out very traditional, folk-based societies, since I can’t get good statistics from them and they wouldn’t have anything to teach us technological societies anyway? Hmmm.
What do you think? Would you like to be involved? I would need an army of research assistants, I think.
Which reminds me, this is as good a place as any to publicly recognize the friends who have corresponded and talked to me over the phone about Haight-Ashbury life in the mid-Sixties . To wit: Maya Cain, Howard Harris, Carrie Helser, Greg Hoffman, Melanie Kinkead, Susan Parma, Steve Walzer, and many more to come I’m sure. And, of course, thanks to my beautiful Patrushka, confidante and editor and the only other person alive who knows the true, full story of The Syndicate of Eternal Friendship.
I did a word count yesterday, by the way, 26,000 words. How long is your typical New York Times bestseller, do you think? Right now, the story as I see it winds its way far into the distance, as did this post.