I hope you're having great weather and great fun this Memorial Day weekend. I'm taking a bit of a break today while we're all up at my parents' cabin north of Anchorage but while this weekend is partly about picnics and fun and being together with loved ones there is also a somber side to Memorial Day as we remember those who have sacrificed for freedom.
In keeping with that more introspective tone I offer you a link that Andrew sent me to an article appearing The Atlantic by Joshua Wolf Shenk called "What Makes Us Happy."
The article (it's very long, I warn you) examines Harvard's Grant Study where a couple hundred sophomore men from the class of 1939 were studied and catalogued over a 70-year period, becoming what is very likely the most comprehensive study on mental and physical health ever accomplished.
While the men involved in the study have mostly remained anonymous some of the participants have posthumously been revealed--such as John F. Kennedy. But to study such a group of men at such a close range for so long yielded fascinating results. I quote:
. . . as the Grant Study men entered middle age—they spent their 40s in the 1960s—many achieved dramatic success. Four members of the sample ran for the U.S. Senate. One served in a presidential Cabinet, and one was president. There was a best-selling novelist (not, Vaillant has revealed, Norman Mailer, Harvard class of ’43). But hidden amid the shimmering successes were darker hues. As early as 1948, 20 members of the group displayed severe psychiatric difficulties. By age 50, almost a third of the men had at one time or another met Vaillant’s criteria for mental illness. Underneath the tweed jackets of these Harvard elites beat troubled hearts.Almost as fascinating as the Grant Study subjects is the man who directed the study in the last phase: George Vaillant and the article intertwines the lives of these anonymous men with the doctor who made their lives his passion.
While the article is long-winded and tedious in parts (it could have been cut down to half its size by a good editor and been much improved) the meat of the piece is thought provoking. What I came away with is this:
- Happiness has very little to do with income or social position.
- Happiness has everything to do with relationships.
- Just because someone is behaving a particular way at one point in their life doesn't mean they'll continue to act that way throughout the remaining years--either for good or bad.
- Perhaps the greatest inhibitor of happiness is ease and lethargy.
- Mental illness is a terrible thing.
- Don't count someone out, we all mature and progress at different speeds.
- Only an omniscient and divine being could properly make judgments as to the success or failure of an individual. We know too little from our cursory observations to make an accurate assessment.
- Psychologists are just as crazy as the people they study.
- What happens to us in this life is rather inconsequential. How we deal with it is everything.
- The four levels of psychotic "adaptations" or responses to life's difficulties that Vaillant describes seem to have some validity and purpose for understanding our emotions.
You never know what you're going to find here do you? One day it's macaroni and cheese the next it's this . . .
Sponsored by Tiny Prints for the holiday party invitations for children.