The school year is underway. It’s our 60th, and (even as I think about the members of the Class of 2011 as they enter college) it is wonderful to see all the new students settling in and finding their way, the rhythm of life here, and all the returning students helping them.
The other night at my table at formal dinner we talked about a film, “Happy,” directed by Roko Belic. It was shown to the faculty before the beginning of school and then to the entire school during a special Assembly. It is a powerful film, and a few of us (me included) admitted that we cried.
It touched every continent and many cultures, but I was surprised and pleased by a vignette on Denmark which apparently has the happiest people on earth; surprised because I’d never thought in such large terms as national happiness, and pleased because it made me think “this is Stevenson.” And students at my table (even new ones) felt the same way.
The reason given for Denmark’s happy people is that the largest percent of Danes live in co-housing facilities; that is to say they share living spaces with other families and they include in them the entire range of life, from babies to grandparents, and beyond. When we live and work in a community (we all need something bigger than ourselves) we turn the proverbial question around to become “what do I have that can help?” instead of “what don’t I have?” Happy is about “intrinsicals” like personal growth, relationships, and community feeling; not “extrinsicals” like money, image, and status. And best of all, happiness is a learned talent, like playing the violin, and it’s free!
There was also talk of “Joy” in the film, including the thought that “joy comes from connection,” and that there is “the biology of joy.” Which is reaffirming because part of our mission here is to “help (our students) shape a joyful life.”
Toward the end I caught the following statements: “there’s a certain sweetness in taking someone’s burden up,” and “my life is on loan from God; I want to give it back with interest.”
Nice thoughts with which to begin.