The Wall Street Journal reports that Bhutan has given up the Gross Domestic Product measure in favor of “gross national happiness.” They have taken four “pillars of happiness” — sustainable economic development, care for the environment, promotion of national culture, and good governance — and focussed on making the citizenry happier. In the process, they have accomplished a number of measurable good things, including longer life spans and lower infant mortality. I would find this a very appealing platform, myself.
An economist from British Columbia argued against this approach, saying that increasing GDP automatically increases happiness. Economics neophytes may not realize that GDP is a measure of how much is spent. So if a hurricane destroys your house and you have to repair it, or tuition increases and you go into debt for it, then the GDP goes up. Neophyte or no, it is clear that there really isn’t a one-to-one correspondence between GDP and happiness. And the WSJ pointed out that the U.S. GDP has risen, with no accompanying rise in well-being. Indeed, in a study of overall happiness in 81 nations, we were #15, after Mexico, Ireland, and top-ranking Puerto Rico, among other less-prosperous places.We were, however, way ahead of Bulgaria and Zimbabwe.
I intend to do my part to increase happiness, however, by offering help with a common knitting dilemma. If you do not have this dilemma, you can go on your way rejoicing, knowing that there is at least one problem you do not have. And if you do have this problem, you will find it solved.
Do you hate and fear double-pointed needles? Many knitters do. They will do mad things like knit mittens on the flat just to avoid them, completely ignoring the fact that they will have to wear mittens with seams for years instead of taking a little time to get used to dps. If you are among this sad group, it is probably for one of the following reasons:
1. The stitches tend to slip off the needles. True. Do not stick this knitting in your purse and head off somewhere. Let it sit quietly at home, where the stitches won’t fall off. Or you can invest in little plugs to put on the ends of your needles when you are not at work on it. Or in a second set of dps in your chosen size, and use more needles. While this helps with the slipping-off part, it also can lead to more trouble with the second problem:
2. They are pointy. Indeed, there are lots of points, more than if you are using a circular needle or long straight ones. But truly, no one ever gets seriously hurt by their dps. It just hasn’t ever happened. You are more likely to be hit by lightning or bitten by a shark. So quit worrying about that. If you find it really scary, switch to bamboo. Those are just as pointy, but they look less dangerous.
3. You think they will leave gaps in your knitting between the needles. I say you think this, because I use them all the time and have never had gaps in my knitting. Some people solve this problem, if it is one, by knitting the first stitch on each needle tightly. However, unless you are making socks by a method requiring you to keep a certain number of stitches on each needle, you can eliminate all worry over this by changing the number of stitches on each needle as you go around. Just knit a couple more or a couple fewer onto each needle, each row. This causes you to stop and start with each needle differently each time, leaving no chance for a row of holes where the needles meet. You may find this a liberating experience.
There. Aren’t you happier already?
Actually, the scoop on happiness is that it is not about our circumstances. A long-term study of happiness began with 3-year-old children, evaluating each for their overall level of happiness. Then the study followed them throughout their lives. Whether they won the lottery or became paraplegic, one thing was clear: changes in their circumstances affected their overall levels of happiness only briefly. Soon, they returned to the same basic level of happiness they had had all along.
This is obviously good news for those of us who are generally happy. We can be sure, when we are miserable, that it won’t last. Those of us who are generally not very happy can perhaps give up searching for happiness and settle in to be truly useful. Or brilliant. Or whatever is within our capacity. And thus find satisfaction, if not a sunny disposition.