Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places--Montclair State University’s “Common Reading Experience” selection for first-year students—spoke to a standing-room-only audience Tuesday night at University Hall.
During his talk, Weiner shared his experiences roaming the world as a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR) over the past two decades, with postings in such places as New Delhi, Jerusalem, and Tokyo. As a foreign correspondent, Weiner said he would wake up each day and ask himself, “Where is the most unhappy place of earth?” and go there. And once there, he would say, “Where are the most unhappy people in this most unhappy place?” and then rush there.
He began to explore the concept of happiness and came to realize different cultures define happiness, pursue happiness, and achieve happiness differently. For some, happiness is merely the absence of misery.
Weiner says pursuing happiness straight on is a sure way to lead to unhappiness, which he describes as “the unhappiness of not being happy.” This, he noted, is a particularly American mind-set.
His takeaways on happiness included: control envy, cultivate trust, do meaningful work, do not win the lottery (yes, there is evidence that this does not lead to happiness), contemplate your own mortality so you live every day to the fullest, experience gratitude, and have no regrets.
Long lines formed at the two microphones as students asked deep, probing questions of the author. Many said that while they initially approached reading The Geography of Bliss as a requirement, they came away really glad they had read the book and that the experience had changed them.