Gross Domestic Happiness

My husband and I are moving.  We are packing up the cats as we speak and teaching them how to meow in Dzongkha and Japanese.

In a former blog post I mentioned one of the five things people didn’t know about me is I wanted an assignment where I would travel and write about the destinations I’ve visited.  Obviously on this trip my husband would accompany me to help document our activities.  He is a professional photographer and the last time I took a picture I looked like this:


Granted this all sounds very much like “Eat, Pray, Love” but it would be quirkier, I’m traveling WITH my husband and not starting out single.  Call it a “Couple’s Quest for Intrinsic Happiness”.

The truth is we aren’t really moving.  We recently watched a documentary titled, “Happy” on Netflix.happy PosterThe entire film was fascinating and a couple of things stood out to me.  Half way through the film the crew went to Bhutan and talked about the main concern of the country being “Gross National Happiness”.  Whereas most countries concentrate on the amount of money they’re bringing in, what exports they can sell to who, and how to turn the income from the sale into goods for themselves, Bhutan realized what was truly important, their people.

The nation as a collective has decided not to concentrate on material concerns.  The material concerns caused them to move established communities, upheaving a life they once knew, eliminate forestry cover and lose spiritual sites for a time.  Gross National Product in turn was causing more harm than good so instead, they decided to pursue Gross National Happiness.  Going into it they knew they wouldn’t be a nation of monetary wealth.  They have only just started this endeavor and we have yet to see what comes of their pursuits.  They believe the happiness of their people in turn will be rewarding, helping them lead prosperous, longer lives.

(It is a proven fact, the happier a person is and the people around them, the longer they live.)

This brings me to the next country we would like to move to, Japan.  There are two reasons I would love to visit the island of Okinawa.  The Okinawans have the longest living population in the world, most live to be one hundred years old.  They farm together, eat dinner together and through the farming, provide gifts of food for their family and friends.  This sounds like a dream to me, this is my first reason for visiting the beautiful island.

They interviewed elderly women at a local community center and the women spoke of “ichariboachode” (you are brother and sister even if you have met for the first time) and “monchu” (one family).  Some of the women were captives in World War II.  When they lost their families, they had their neighbors and communities to rely on.  Everyone took care of each other.

My Grandfather was in the 6th Marine Division during World War II, went to Okinawa and helped rescue some of these women from the caves they were hidden in on the island.  My Grandfather barely spoke of this, his heart was broken over the condition in which he found these women and children.  When I spoke to my parents about this film my mother said some resonating words, “Your Grandpa would be so happy that in time these people found happiness.” She is right.  This is the second reason I would love to visit Okinawa.  In some way, by visiting, I feel it would bring closure to an issue my Grandfather had for a long time.  By seeing with my own eyes, their happiness, and in turn letting them know he carried that burden with him for so long, it would be a meeting of happiness and healing for the parties involved.

My Grandfather in China circa1945

My Grandfather in China circa1945

My Grandfather on a tug boat Circa 1943-1945 (?)

My Grandfather on a tug boat Circa 1943-1945 (?)

For one nation to realize the meaning of life is not in the possession of things but within ourselves, faith and each other is a huge step, I feel, in the right direction.  I want to go with my husband to Bhutan and maybe accidentally get stuck between two prayer wheels, so I can say “It’s alright, I’m between prayers right now!”.  I want to explore what makes the people of Bhutan happy and how they plan to ensure happiness for future generations.

I want to go to Okinawa and speak to some of the women who may have met my Grandpa. I want to ask them how through the sorrows of war they made the journey back to happiness.

I want to travel to the places I only heard my grandpa speak of and where my great-aunt would bring back souvenirs like a tiny bronze Buddha statue.  Even though both my grandpa and great-aunt were devout Christians, they still saw the beauty in other peoples’ faiths and cultures.  I want to see what they saw.

I want to see, understand and live happiness like the people in these countries.  Maybe in turn if someone were to employ my husband and I to travel to these places, in writing the book about the experiences, it would help others to look within, reflect and see what their passion truly is, what truly makes them happy.

 If any of my readers are from Bhutan or Okinawa I would like to know what you think about the representation of your countries in the documentary.  Do you feel it is accurate?  Do you feel you are intrinsically happy or are you still seeking it?

     To my other readers, what makes YOU happy? Happy 




4 thoughts on “Gross Domestic Happiness

    • Thank you so much!!! You are so positive and sweet, thank you, thank you, thank you!!! In a way, his experience is like some of the oral traditions carried on in many of the Asian cultures I have read about. I feel part of his journey is also part of mine in that the pursuit of happiness is up to us if we want it. All he wanted for the women and families of Okinawa was happiness, I just wish he could have seen the documentary to know he aided in their pursuit of happiness after all! Thank you for “peeking” into my journal! You are always so lovely! 😃

      • When I read this post, I was truly moved. It wasn’t just what you wrote, it was HOW you wrote it. Then you responded in kind in one of my posts and left me a link about the six year old and the meaning of life…..that reduced me to a blubbering idiot….lol 🙂 I know we write and we do it for ourselves, but sometimes the things you do just speak to people. You have no idea ….. not a one…how that simple little link made my day (and made me cry! Lol). Thanks for the gift you had no idea I needed.

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