The Geography of Bliss
By Eric Weiner
Hachette Book Group
Eric Weiner was born in 1963, the year a graphic designer named Harvey Ball invented the yellow smiley face graphic. But that joy spreading little icon never worked on this author, whose favourite toy was Eeyore. He read self-help books in his search for happiness, discovering that happiness is not inside us, it is out there.
In this book Eric Weiner visits 10 places in the world, in search of that elusive thing, happiness. His search takes him to The Netherlands, where pretty much anything goes, and then to Switzerland, where success is number one, and happiness somewhere down the list of must-haves. His observations in those countries are pithy and interesting, but somehow not exactly what he hoped to find. His next stop is Bhutan. Perhaps an unlikely place to find those things that make people happy, but Mr. Weiner is a reader, and somewhere in the past he read Lost Horizon by James Hilton. The call of Shangri-La took him to Bhutan.
The author is advised to see “Karma” who will advise him on happiness. Karma discusses happiness willingly, but at length advises Eric to “think about your own death for five minutes every day.” He believes that Eric, like most North Americans fear death and that keeps him from true happiness.
His next stop in this search is Qatar. If money will buy happiness then this is the place to be; they are rolling in dough. Fifty years ago, they were a nation of shepherds.
Now with oil, the country is full of expatriates who fill all the service requirements, waiters, cooks, taxi drivers, for a country of rich people. Their happiness is air conditioned comfort.
Iceland, the authors next stop, is a country that loves and supports writers, a country that has a saying, “better to go barefoot than without a book.” They drink a lot, “it’s because of the dark.” And in the summer? “Oh yes, because we are so glad to see the light.” So happiness may be found in one big year round Viking booze up.
This author has a glib style and a journalists way of finding the “real” story. His next stop is Moldova (somewhere between Romania and the Ukraine) The per capita income is $880 per year. Without much English they say their lives are “feevty-feevty.”
To Thailand and mai pen lai, (drop it and get on with life) Great Britain and the town of Slough. (“Have a good moan and get on with it”) To India and meditation, where happiness is a contradiction. Then home to America, a country whose citizens seek happiness in moving house. A fun and informative book that could make you happy.
Peggy Freeman is a freelance writer living in Red Deer.