Sunday, 4 July 2010

A Place for Wisdom

Bit of a different post to usual this one, but as I mentioned in a previous post, I've recently bought a copy of Resurgence Magazine and it's got me thinking...

So Bhutan is measuring success in terms of Gross National Happiness. An article written by Bhutan's prime minister explains how his country is measuring success in terms of Gross National Happiness. What a fantastic idea! I've heard about this before and of course my first thought was always - we should be doing that everywhere! Forget measuring it in terms of money, GDP - that's almost equatable to a measure of how environmentally destructive a country is (in terms of resource depletion at least). Gross National Happiness.

But what does that mean? How do you get it. That's what this Resurgence article's about - trying to work that out and a few things really struck a chord with me. Real happiness and what that is kind of gets you thinking along philosophical lines - real happiness is about more than quick fix chocolate and new clothes, it's something deeper than that. It means spending time with those you love, making sacrifices for the greater good, doing favours for people simply to spread the joy around...

Perhaps it means different things to different people, but one thing's for sure, it requires a certain degree of wisdom to find it.

Wisdom hey? That got me thinking too. We've kind of stopped valuing wisdom haven't we. We value cleverness, the ability to retain facts - the names of all the players in a football team, the latest statistics to do with climate change, dates to do with peak oil, artists' great works etc etc. That impresses us. But what about wisdom? This is important in Bhutan and their approach is thick with it. Thinking about the greater good and doing whatever it takes to fix things that are broken right at their core. Doing things properly. Fantastic!

All of this stuff has hit home so much I think because of another article I read which pointed out that the green movement has kind of lost track a bit - we're edging towards simply pushing for technological fixes to climate change that enable us to keep business as usual. I admit that I've kind of been sucked in to that too working in my job as a climate change advisor - thinking that the main thing is to appease the vast majority of people here, find them enough clean renewable energy so they can keep living the same way as ever. I didn't used to think like that and this permaculture project we've got going here is my attempt to break out of business as usual and demonstrate how it can be done.

Deep down, I know that these consumer societies are deeply wrong, that they breed unhappiness, that they destroy our planet and that we have to change. I kind of also feel like we need almost a spiritual revolution - to reconnect with a sense of wisdom I guess - cos right now it's like we're living in a fog of cleverness. We learn about being clever at school. When we start work, those who are the cleverest go far. If you can find a way to make more money, increase your market, improve your product, increase GDP, then you're a success. Wisdom doesn't really make money does it!

But without wisdom, how can we really improve this Gross National Happiness?


  1. what a lovely post! and a good thing to ponder - our consumerist society does seem value cleverness over wisdom...... one has to say that all the things that have brought about rampant consumerism rely on all manner of tricky cleverness.... and a complete lack of wisdom! no wonder materialist western societies are constantly turning up in the lists of most stressed least happy societies. thanks for the great post!


  2. Thanks Ronnie, glad you liked it! Seems a bit bonkers doesn't it - all that effort and money to leave us way down the list in happiness ratings. So yeah - it'll be really interesting to see what Bhutan come up with as they strive to measure and increase their Gross National Happiness..



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