Theme for October 2014 ~ Pursuit of Happiness
Garry Wills’ classic 1978 book on the Declaration, Inventing America, puts it well: “When Jefferson spoke of pursuing happiness,” wrote Wills, “he had nothing vague or private in mind. He meant public happiness which is measurable; which is, indeed, the test and justification of any government.”
According to historians of happiness and of Aristotle, it was an ultimate good, worth seeking for its own sake. Given the Aristotelian insight that man is a social creature whose life finds meaning in his relation to other human beings, Jeffersonian eudaimonia — the Greek word for happiness — evokes virtue, good conduct and generous citizenship…
1. behavior showing high moral standards. “paragons of virtue”
|synonyms:||goodness, virtuousness, righteousness, morality, integrity, dignity,rectitude, honor, decency, respectability, nobility, worthiness, purity|
2. (in traditional Christian angelology) the seventh highest order of the ninefold celestial hierarchy.
In Memoriam of the exuberant Persophilia of
Retired Lt. Col. John F. Hillen Jr.:
Excerpt: “…In 1974, he received a master’s degree in Middle East studies from George Washington University, and he became fluent in the language and culture of Iran before his deployment there.
Col. Hillen, who had been a senior parachutist, taught Iranian airborne and infantry troops military strategy and tactics…”
How well do you understand others’ emotional states?
Alfredo Jaar and the Happiness of Chile
Alfredo Jaar wants to know: “Are you happy?”
December 8th, 2013
SEE THE MAN.
He’s standing next to a newsstand on a busy street in Santiago de Chile, talking to people as they rush by. At first you try to avoid looking at him, worried that he might be a beggar or something worse. For years it’s been too dangerous to talk to strangers. You never know who they might talk to next.
Yet as you walk by you notice that he is standing in front of a large white chart and it catches your attention. The chart is gridded with black squares and studded with small white pins that represent percentages. Above the grids are precise numbers and you can’t help but pause; it is a surprise to see something so careful and scientific in the middle of a busy, trash-strewn street in Santiago, above all next to a newsstand plastered with so many ugly tabloid pictures.
It reminds you of the public surveys you took when you were studying sociology at the university, before the junta took over, back when students could still work on anything they wanted. The man looks like a student, too, with his shaggy hair and his blue jeans. You hesitate, overcome by memory. Then the man asks you a question. “¿Es usted feliz?”
Are you happy.
Frightened, you look at him. Does he know who you are? Will he report you to someone? But as you look at his face — it is an intense, open face — his eyes begin to seize up, and you know that he too is afraid.
You glance back at his chart. For the first time you notice that it’s decorated with a small graphic of a colorful rainbow. The rainbow has been cautiously measured and rigidly drawn, and for some reason the sight of it breaks your heart — to think that this poor student has to demonstrate his innocence in this way. That he has to be afraid to ask even the most simple, childish questions. But of course you know why he should be afraid, and so you turn to him and say what he already knows must be a lie.
Chile was not a happy country in June 1980, when the Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar began taking public surveys for his Studies on Happiness project. Once South America’s most stable democracy, for nearly seven years the country had been in the grips of a military dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet. It would be another full decade before Pinochet was peacefully ushered out of power… (continues)