Monday, May 15, 2006

Poppies and happiness

click photo to enlarge
According to some social and economic researchers, western society reached a peak of happiness and well-being in 1976, and, despite rising living standards and increasing life-spans, it's been downhill since then. When you ask people what they want from life a common answer is "to be happy". However, when you ask individuals what would make them happy you get myriad replies. For many it's having lots of money, for some being thinner, whilst others would be happy if they were famous. Yet if you look at those who embody all three of those qualities - you'll have your own list - they don't seem to be any happier than the average person.

Some people think that happiness comes from a life of constant leisure: they crave the time to do nothing. Yet idleness soon palls because most people need to fill their hours with something more than sitting in the sun. And there, I think, is the one real clue to how to achieve happiness. Happiness comes from doing things - it's a by-product, if you like, of activity: it isn't, and we wouldn't want it to be, an end in itself. If we do seek happiness as an end in itself, it could easily be achieved through drugs or chemical means. However, that would bring the mindlessly passive state that Aldous Huxley described in his novel, Brave New World. So, it seems that if we have good relationships, care for our families, find work of value, strive to learn, make contributions to our society, in other words do those things that mean we live our lives well, happiness will find us, without us searching for it. And megabucks, body shape and fame won't enter in to it!

These poppy seed heads set off that train of thought which I'd been thinking about after reading an article in A.C. Grayling's book, "The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life". Too often today poppies are mentioned in connection with drugs and the state of mind they produce, rather than as beautiful flowers. I took this photograph with a macro lens after placing a piece of dark card behind the seed heads. The lighting is natural, and the only post processing is an increase in contrast and sharpness.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen