Monday, June 3, 2013

Happiness Is Homegrown

Are you busy right now? Already behind on what you wanted to accomplish today? this week? this year? We are obsessed with time. We have a fear that if we don’t to cram as much as possible into our day, we might miss out on something fun, or important, or special.

Blue Ridge Landscape by Orpha Largen
Researchers have given this feeling a name: “time famine.” Feeling like you’re experiencing a time famine has very real consequences, including increased stress and diminished satisfaction with life. Alternatively, one can enjoy “time affluence,” the feeling of having enough time. This surplus-of-time-feeling can be more powerfully uplifting than material wealth, improving not just personal happiness but also physical health and civic involvement. (is is weird I discovered this concept on a blog about chickens?)

Not too long ago the measure of life’s worth was not in how many tasks could efficiently be accomplished in a day. Back when normal folk grew food, worked with their hands, stayed up past sunset in the light of an oil lantern, and held farm corn-shucking where the whole community gathered were once  the things that contributed to a good living, or living well.

Everything we do - projects, work, hobbies, relationships - should begin in delight and end in wisdom. That’s what I learned on the family farm, at least. The wisdom – and the work – comes later. My grandma Orpha Largen was a artist. She found joy in drawing those things that were beautiful in her life. The drawings of the Blue Ridge Landscape and spring flowers below shows her joy and the patient work that comes from a life of raising your own food.
Slow living and slow thinking can help us discover the re-creation of good work: working with care and patience, working with family and friends, and working toward excellence and joy.

When we slow down our work has more meaning.  Is our goal not to be thoughtful, attentive, and mindful as time moves us through our days?

We can escape from our time famine. We have some say. We can turn off our smart phones. We can start using our hands. 

My first suggestion seems too simple and obvious to mention, but it is not. I'm talking about the one step so many people never get around to taking: Begin. By just beginning to act - taking any step - to do something to improve the situation around you, you separate yourself from all the people who are endlessly talking about what needs to be done, or what someone else ought to do.

By deciding to do what has real meaning happiness grows and this set an example others want to follow. It matters how many people decide homegrown happiness is greater than  efficient time-dictated rational labor of the inescapable "iron cage".  

Rediscovering how to grow our collective happiness not just a technical challenge, it's a moral challenge. We - individually and collectively - can create a world of sustainable communities that is the forgotten American Tradition. 

So... Begin. Begin - anyway you can - to grow real happiness. Next, ensure that good happiness will spread - choose to support only those who do so too. 

That's real meaning. That's real power.    

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