|Mr Jean Timsit: Growing in luxury and comfort doesnt produce happiness. |
- An ecologist says the earth is going to explode with all the uncontrolled development activities taking place and calls for a stop. An economist, on the other hand, says that economy needs to grow without which the system would explode. Quite different from the two thoughts, a philosopher says that it is the training of individual minds, which is important and what happens outside does not really matter.
Despite all these contradictory views, a group of scientists from varying disciplines economists, ecologists, historians, philosophers, anthropologists, mathematicians and neurobiologists are now coming together to find ways to achieve Gross National Happiness (GNH), which at the moment only exists as a goal.
Although the project might seem loftier than the philosophy itself, the coordinator of the project, Project +, (the plus symbolising a crossroad), Mr Jean Timsit, is optimistic that discussions among these scientists will lead to some new knowledge that would help achieve GNH.
Were just starting, said Mr Timsit, who got immersed in the concept of GNH and how the country measured its progress with it rather than other economic indices. We have the funding and are in the process of selecting the group of scientists. We should be ready by June and the study will start as soon.
Mr Timsit was inspired to carry out this study because the question about happiness, he said, was never treated seriously. When you look at the old texts and todays literature, we are raising exactly the same questions as 25 centuries ago or more about happiness and how to lead a life, the goal and meaning of life and what happiness is, said Mr Timsit. While the questions and the challenges have remained the same, there hasnt been much progress like in other areas.
Governments and countries, he said, always thought developing cars and trains and making lives better would make people happy. Today, weve realised that growing in luxury and comfort doesnt produce happiness, Mr Timsit said, adding that going towards Gross Domestic Products and other economic indices only destroyed the causes of happiness like social connection, friendship, sense of purpose and meaning in life and instead produced specialised lives, individualised people and less social connection.
In America, he cited that, although the level of life had doubled in the last 15 years, the level of happiness, as reported by people, stagnated.
Mr Timsit said that the projects idea was to have a society, where the causes of happiness were present, which produces enough comfort but not too much that people are bored and there is no sustainability.
Is that achievable? So far nobody has done that, so it must be difficult, he said, adding that there wasnt an efficient system to carry out the project. That knowledge Im planning to contribute to GNH by grouping scientists from all disciplines, who think the concept is intelligent said Mr Timsit.
In science, he explained, neuroscientists had no business to talk to economists, who have no reason to talk to philosophers. Its time to put these people together and force them to talk because happiness is very central and a result of all our lives of what we do, he said.
The group of scientists, Mr Timsit said, would lead to pretty much a model like Bhutan.
He said that an economist would say Bhutan was an exception and to get there would mean decrease in economy, which was in explosion.
We might have to ask the economist to work more towards a model of economy which doesnt require a growth forever, which anyway is impossible, said Mr Timsit. While an ecologist would be happy at that thought, historians, Mr Timsit said, could be used to see in what moments of history things were better or worse. An anthropologist could see which culture was more favourable or happy and which depressed, and philosophers could contribute by training people to be content.
Bhutan is interesting because its just one example where we still can do it, where people are trying to achieve the combination of a sufficiently comfortable life with the understanding of this holistic vision of happiness, which does not just come from wealth, he said.
Mr Timsit and his group of scientists expect to complete their study within three years or so, after which they are hopeful to have reached somewhere. Therell always be more to explore once that benchmark has been set, Mr Timsit said.
By Samten Wangchuk