I am a big fan of Annie Leonard and her colleagues at Free Range Studios. Their 2007 video, “The Story of Stuff,” dramatically shifted my attitude away from consumerism and a growth economy. Thanks to this zippy, powerful 20 minute video, I create most of my art now with recycled materials; I find replacement wine glasses from used stuff stores (since my household seems to be in contention for the wine-glass-breaking record); and even most of what I buy for the precious grand baby comes from consignment stores. Watching “The Story of Stuff” was transformational.
That video is also one of the reasons I am on the happiness path, which offers an appealing alternative to the hedonic treadmill and the environmental and cultural devastation wrought by our stuff addiction. Research shows that happier people buy less stuff — which makes sense, because happy people are busy experiencing life, being kind, exercising, meditating, taking care of others, etc.
Leonard’s 2007 video helped convince me of the urgency for massive cultural change away from the Gross National Product (GNP) paradigm and toward a Gross National Happiness (GNH) paradigm — a shift that needs to happen at every level, within us as individuals on up through international systems. Now she and her crew have a new video that is almost as powerful: “The Story of Solutions,” which describes both the current paradigm and the much needed paradigm shift in far more understandable language. “More” drives our lives as cogs in a growth economy. “Better” is the goal for sustainable solutions and happier humans. So simple, so elegant, so spot on. Though the phrase “Gross National Happiness” resonates with me, it has not been universally embraced. In contrast, who can argue with the clean, clear, bottom line: “better”?
My work is mostly focused on helping individuals make a happiness paradigm shift at a personal level, beginning with myself, of course. I often ponder the choices my husband and I make in the context of climate change and happiness writ large and small. This helps me understand ways I need to grow toward sustainable happiness, and ways to share these options with others.
Last night was no exception. I was thinking of “The Story of Solutions” because we had a “better” not “more” kind of evening. My husband and I were enjoying the pea soup he had cooked while I was in town co-leading a “How of Happiness” study group. Is there a food more humble than pea soup? We also had locally-baked bread to dip in garlic oil (the garlic came from our backyard) and a salad. It’s gotten cold here, so the wood stove in the kitchen was blazing. For many, many years we’ve eaten dinner by candlelight — always sharing a toast with a glass of wine (white for him, red for me). That’s what we did last night, too, but there was nothing fancy about the entire scenario — just a humble meal for a long-time married couple.
I was, simply, happy.
Who needs more?
I happen to love pea soup, but the point is, choosing better over more is not a sacrifice. It is a happy way forward, for ourselves and our planet. It’s a solution we can live with.