Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Brooks on Bullock & Happiness

The other night at the grocery store, as I absent-mindedly pushed the shopping cart, my eyes fell on the tabloids, and all I seemed to see was Sandra Bullock. However, she was not featured for winning her Oscar, but because her husband seems to be a cheating jerk. Well, it seems Dave Brooks must do some grocery shopping as well, as he just published a column entitled "The Sandra Bullock Trade". Brooks asks the rhetorical question: which brings greater happiness, an Oscar, or a happy marriage. Brooks looks to social science to provide an answer: the marriage. Really, this topic of research into happiness goes back to ancient times (think Buddha, Socrates, Aristotle, etc.) but why not throw in some polls and math? In short, while success in professional endeavors certainly can bring rewards—Oscar winners live on average four years longer than Oscar losers—these rewards don't carry nearly the lasting effect or magnitude of loving relationships. So here, first, a shout out to my wife and daughters, and to all my family (by blood & marriage), and friends and colleagues and so on. I have every appreciation of what a great hand life has dealt to me.

While professional rewards can provide a great deal of satisfaction, they come and they go. Sometimes we lose. Telling a client that we've lost his or her case is a very difficult and unpleasant task. The race doesn't always go to the swift, but we always believe that it ought to.

In addition, our communities matter. How we as members of communities, such as towns, states, nations, churches, social groups, etc. value experiences and things (such as fellow human and dollars, to take two quick examples) will greatly affect the quality of our lives.

Finally, a shout out for social science. It can provide us with perspectives on things that sit in plain sight right before our eyes, but for which we lack perspective. On the other hand, sometimes it simply points to the ridiculously obvious: sex can make us happy. Dah.

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