Thursday, March 23, 2006

Harvard is Happy...

Yesterday, NPR was talking about happiness studies at Harvard. It's the number one class on campus. It sounds sort of new agey and repetitive in its power of positive thinking message, and it is perhaps a little intellectually degrading for some of those Cambridge smartypants. I've got no problem with it - there's nothing worse than a brilliant Type A personality who has no sense of humor and no ability to just shut up and exist for a moment every now and then. I had a friend for a while who was a certified genius and it was actually painful for me to be around her because her massive brain power was in such obvious resistance to the constraints of time and space around her. Honestly, I think she liked me because I reminded her what it's like to be dim and ordinary and at peace with simple being. Hence the pain.

I remember a psych 101 class in high school called "Personality." I still have the text book. It was filled with bland, introverted and generally terrified freshmen boys and girls, and was taught by a hip earth-mama professor with hair down to her ass and huge, yellow-tinted aviator glasses. We read "Dibs in Search of Self" and discussed sex and drugs and popularity and all of these things that were on kids minds but were to afraid to admit. Even at 15, I could smell the ruse as I'm sure others could too. We weren't studying the science of human identity, we were scooping out our diapers and being coaxed into verbalizing our secret alienations, and the feelings of asphyxiation brought on by this overwhelming FUTURE we all faced. I'd love to teach that class now.

Rather than teaching something as vague (and selfish?) as happiness, I would think Harvard would do better teaching Visualization. The future we ultimately reel in will be largely dependent upon our collective visions of it. Purely academic or financial aspirations are clearly too narrow and can lead to horrendous results (such as the 1980s). The future we imagine should be happy, sure, but it must have gestalt. The problems we face now as a planet can be easily attributed to select vision, exclusionary thinking, or simple small-mindedness. If Harvard is one key breeding ground for the shape of the future then let them be happy and visionary and inspirational to us all. That is the failure of the human potential movement. They are genuinely interested in how much more we can be as a species, but they seem to hoard their findings to themselves and bask in their goofy powers and knowingness to the exclusion of everyone else. High school never ends.

("Clownfish" by Royce B. McClure)


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