Common name: Labord's Chameleon (Furcifer labordi), Madagascar
Photo: © Franco Andreone [http://www.francoandreone.it/]
Ian Sample, science correspondent, The Guardian, July 1, 2008
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Despite the anxieties of these times, happiness has been on the rise around the world in recent years, a new survey finds. The upbeat outlook is attributed to economic growth in previously poor countries, democratization of others, and rising social tolerance for women and minority groups.
"It's a surprising finding," said University of Michigan political scientist Ronald Inglehart, who headed up the survey. "It's widely believed that it's almost impossible to raise an entire country's happiness level." Denmark is the happiest nation and Zimbabwe the the most glum, he found. (Zimbabwe's longtime ruler Robert Mugabe was sworn in as president for a sixth term Sunday after a widely discredited runoff in which he was the only candidate. Observers said the runoff was marred by violence and intimidation.) The United States ranks 16th.
The results of the survey, going back an average of 17 years in 52 countries and involving 350,000 people, will be published in the July 2008 issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Researchers have asked the same two questions over the years: "Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy, rather happy, not very happy, not at all happy?" And, "All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?" A Happiness Index created from the answers rose in 40 countries between 1981 and 2007, and it fell in the other 12.
Scientists had thought happiness is stable over time when looking at entire societies. "Most previous research suggests that people and nations are stuck on a 'hedonic treadmill,'" Inglehart said. "The belief has been that no matter what happens or what we do, basic happiness levels are stable and don't really change." So Inglehart's team was surprised that happiness "rose substantially." They speculate reasons for the sunny outlooks include societal shifts in recent decades: Low-income countries such as India and China have experienced unprecedented rates of economic growth; dozens of medium-income countries have democratized; and there has been a sharp rise of gender equality and tolerance of ethnic minorities and gays and lesbians in developed societies.
Previous research has found that happiness is partly inherited and that money doesn't buy much of it. Yet the new survey finds people of rich countries tend to be happier than those of poor countries. And controlling for economic factors, certain types of societies are much happier than others. "The results clearly show that the happiest societies are those that allow people the freedom to choose how to live their lives," Inglehart said.
A survey released last week found one reason America doesn't top the list: Baby Boomers are generally miserable compared to other generations. Further, a public opinion poll released by the Pew Research Center in April found that 81 percent of Americans say they believe the country is on the "wrong track." The response is the most negative in the 25 years pollsters have asked the question. The World Values Surveys, led by Inglehart, was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Swedish and Netherlands Foreign Ministries, and other institutions.
(LiveScience.com; the Associated Press contributed to this report)
In this Feb. 29, 2008 file photo, the last element, weighing 100 tons, of the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) experiment is lowered into the cave at the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN (Centre Europeen de Recherche Nucleaire) in Meyrin, near Geneva, Switzerland. ATLAS is part of five experiments which, from mid 2008 on, will study what happens when beams of particles collide in the 27 km (16.8 miles) long underground ring LHC (Large Hadron Collider). ATLAS is one of the largest collaborative efforts ever attempted in the physical sciences. There are 2100 physicists (including 450 students) participating from more than 167 universities and laboratories in 37 countries.(AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini, FILE)
Burning Man participants watch a 40-foot wooden figure know as "The Man" burn on the playa at the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nev., on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007, during the Burning Man festival. A San Francisco man was arrested Tuesday after allegedly burning The Man four days ahead of schedule, but festival-goers rebuilt it.
"Buddhism dominated the intellectual world of medieval Japan. It was of great antiquity, had been transmitted to Japan through the long established Chinese and Indian civilizations, and had a huge canon of complex philosophical and theological support. Given this intellectual framework (and the apparent lack of microscopes), it’s not surprising that some Japanese speculated that hungry ghosts were responsible for nibbling at feces, corpses and last week’s bad tofu. This happened even when you protected the repugnant stuff from insects. Something had to be eating at it, and Buddhism provided yet another convenient and entirely rational explanation for the unseen world...." (Read entire post, view scroll: SOURCE).
A worshipper dressed in a costume as "Ba Ye" dances during the Cheng Huang Ye parade as part of the Hungry Ghost Festival or "Zhong Yuan Jie" in Hsinchu August 26, 2007. It is believed by worshippers that the gates of Hell are opened during the month and the dead ancestors return to visit their relatives. The Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated every year during the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar (Reuters).
Original Concept of Hungry Ghost
(Petavatthu 1.5 translated by Ven. Thanissaro, www.acesstoinsight.org)
Outside the walls they stand,
and at crossroads.
At door posts they stand,
returning to their old homes.
But when a meal with plentiful food and drink is served,
no one remembers them:
Such is the karma of living beings.
Thus those who feel sympathy for their dead relatives
give timely donations of proper food and drink
— exquisite, clean —
[thinking:] "May this be for our relatives.
May our relatives be happy!"
And those who have gathered there,
the assembled shades of the relatives,
with appreciation give their blessing
for the plentiful food & drink:
"May our relatives live long
because of whom we have gained [this gift].
We have been honored,
and the donors are not without reward!"
For there [in their realm] there's
no herding of cattle,
no trading with money.
They live on what is given here,
whose time here is done.
As water raining on a hill
flows down to the valley,
even so does what is given here
benefit the dead.
As rivers full of water
fill the ocean full,
even so does what is given here
benefit the dead.
"He gave to me, she acted on my behalf,
they were my relatives, companions, friends":
Offerings should be given for the dead
when one reflects thus
on things done in the past.
For no weeping,
no other lamentation
benefits the dead
whose relatives persist in that way.
But when this offering is given, well-placed in the Sangha,
it works for their long-term benefit
and they profit immediately.
In this way the proper duty to relatives has been shown,
great honor has been done to the dead,
and [monastics] have been given strength:
The merit you've acquired
is not small.
Some people may find suicide acceptable, as with the modern notion of a right to choose euthanasia. It may be acceptable to turn down artificial life support. However, asking for euthanasia goes a step further. In moving away from "prolonging the agony" or experiencing pain, one may enter a bargain not realizing the postmortem results. If life ended here then there would be no need to concern oneself with anything but here. Since life is not limited to just this, concern with Samsara (the wheel of life and death) and repeated birth in various planes of existence, however difficult they may be to believe in, is a wise consideration.