Thursday, March 21, 2013

Valuing Vulnerability?

Vulnerability is not a value for those of us who live in the United States, but some social scientists say it should be.  Watch the video below by Brene Brown at a TED Talk.

Brown explains that to feel really fulfilled in life, we must live whole-heartedly.  But to live whole-heartedly, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable to others.  It is a very difficult proposition because this rides against the flow of our culture.  But in a follow-up TED Talk, Brown explains that vulnerability is not weakness.  Try to watch the video above a few times.  It takes time to really understand it, but it is so insightful.

$ = :-(

Because most of us buy into the values in the United States, we seek success and materialism through hard work and personal achievement sometimes even alone as individuals.  We assume that happiness will be a part of this equation but notice it is not.  Sadly, we often isolate ourselves from others in our quest for success and this makes us less happy.  So, today's lesson is to carefully select the values we want to hold dear to us.  Be mindful that your culture is always tugging at you to follow it, but that doesn't mean it will lead you where you want to go.  A growing field of research has been exploring happiness and why it is so elusive. What could be more important than real happiness - true happiness, contentment with our lives? This research reveals that although we are vastly wealthier than a few decades ago we are less happy as a nation. Sociology, psychology and economics all have been exploring happiness and I think it relates to our culture and how we live our lives.
A 2008 sociology study found that happiness is more difficult for parents :-( me! But our culture thinks that it is taboo to talk about how difficult raising children is. Other sociologists have written about how we as Americans try to consume happiness through our spending power. Sociologist Karen Sternheimer writes
You are no doubt familiar with the cliché that “money can’t buy happiness.” Yet so many of us presume that if we just had a little more money (according to Easterlin’s research, 20% more) we would be happier. Maybe we could buy more, pay off some bills, and feel less stressed about money.
But Easterlin found that this just isn’t the case. In fact, he says many of us buy into the “money illusion”, which guides how we spend our time as we focus on trying to get more money. Of course, this is a very American pursuit: our capitalist economy is based on the constant striving for more.

On the psychology of happiness, Tal Ben-Shahar teaches the most popular class at Harvard, The Psychology of Happiness. His book, Happier, is a psychological understanding of how to live a happier life. He also maintains this website with articles and tips on being happier. You can also see Shahar on John Stewart's Daily Show.
Economists have been discussing happiness at great lengths lately. The most interesting to me so far is Richard Layard who wrote Happiness. Here is an excerpt from Layard's book:

There is a paradox at the heart of our lives. We all want more money, but as societies become richer, they do not become happier. This is not speculation: It's the story told by countless pieces of scientific research. We now have sophisticated ways of measuring how happy people are, and all the evidence shows that on average people have grown no happier in the last fifty years, even as average incomes have more than doubled.

The central question the great economist Richard Layard asks in Happiness is this: If we really wanted to be happier, what would we do differently? First we'd have to see clearly what conditions generate happiness and then bend all our efforts toward producing them. That is what this book is about-the causes of happiness and the means we have to effect it.

Until recently there was too little evidence to give a good answer to this essential question, but, Layard shows us, thanks to the integrated insights of psychology, sociology, applied economics, and other fields, we can now reach some firm conclusions, conclusions that will surprise you. Happiness is an illuminating road map, grounded in hard research, to a better, happier life for us all.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Service Oppportunity: A Just Harvest

A Just Harvest is a community group that fights poverty on the border of Evanston and Rogers Park(Chicago). They also run a soup kitchen called The Community Kitchen. Here is a description from their website:
The Community Kitchen The Community Kitchen A Just Harvest’s Community Kitchen began as a ministry of the Good News Community Church (United Church of Christ) in 1983. In the beginning, we served meals a few days per week. Today, with the help of more than 40 partnering organizations and nearly 10,000 volunteer hours, our Community Kitchen is the largest and only self-standing community soup kitchen in the Chicago metro area. We serve hot, nutritious meals 365 days per year to anyone in need. Last year, the Community Kitchen served more than 54,000 meals. For more information about volunteering, click here. Anyone in need is welcome. There is no need for referrals or to present identification. The Community Kitchen is a welcoming place for children and families. Doors open every day at 4:30 p.m. Dinner is served from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends and national holidays.
On Fri, April 26 and Fri May 10 Mrs Fainman will take students there to prepare and serve meals to low income residents. If you are traveling with her, plan to miss 8th period. If you have a class you need a permission slip. If you are driving on your own, I would bring change for parking meters and I would leave by 3:20 or immediately after 8th period.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Collective Behaviors

Artist Chris Jordan spoke at a TED conference about the collective behaviors that Americans engage in.  It is a great example of both our cultural values and how they affect us in a very real way, but also it serves as an example of being sociologically mindful about our culture.  Watch the video below:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Special Olympics Bocce Ball Tournament Volunteers

If you are planning to volunteer at the Special Olympics Bocce Ball Tournament on Sunday April 21st from 7:30 - 3:30 please fill out this google form:
This event is part of the Special Olympics Area 13 games.  Susan Foege is in charge of the event.  It takes place at Citizens Park in Barrington.