Not Everything is Rotten in the State of Denmark
Someone asked me the other day about my summer vacation and the various trips I had taken to Europe and Australia with my family. “What’s the one thing about your travels that struck you?” he asked.
Almost without thinking, I told him about standing on a street corner somewhere in France and watching the traffic. “Maybe one in 50 cars was a big, gas-guzzling hog,” I said. “I shook my and head and thought: Why is it that the rest of the world seems to get it, and we Americans don’t?”
You probably know that I’ve been harping for the last year, trying to help people to move their position and decide to understand and embrace that our economic woes — despite the pain — do provide us a rare, and even much-needed, opportunity to hit the reset button and learn to experience the happiness that comes from actually living smarter and smaller.
Maybe this is an opportunity for us to realize that we don’t need two cars we can’t afford to begin with. We don’t need to “attack” the mall to get our acquisition/consumption “fix” every day. We don’t need to buy a house we know we can’t afford. We can stop our own madness. Along with the economy getting a cleansing, we, too, get a chance to fix our values and reel it in some. There is a lot to be said for slowing down some.
One of the most interesting things I read this summer was a report that came out claiming Denmark to be the happiest nation in the world. It says that more than two-thirds of Danes report being “very satisfied with their lives.” In part, the reason is that they tend to be healthy, married and active — which we’ve known for a long time to be contributing factors to true satisfaction. But what is most intriguing to me is that Danes, generally speaking, don’t feel a particular need to get involved in the rat race. They don’t crave status. They don’t care about living large.
Now, am I suggesting that you and I pack up and move to northern Europe so we can spend the rest of our lives wearing fur hats and parkas? Do I think we need to give up the desire to achieve and be successful? Of course not.
But are we wrong to remain convinced, in our heart of hearts, that it’s the accumulation of possessions that gets us to the brass ring? I wonder: What is it going to take to get this figured out?