Posted by: janellehilmes | September 3, 2010

What makes life good?

“Nic Marks: The Happy Planet Index | Video on TED.com.” TED: Ideas worth Spreading. Web. 31 Aug. 2010. http://www.ted.com/talks/nic_marks_the_happy_planet_index.html.
Nic Marks gave a speech at the TED conference about not only being happy but also making sure the earth doesn’t suffer because of our happiness. He created the HPI, Happy Planet Index, which measures for each country “how successful it is at creating happy and healthy lives for its citizens. That should be the goal of every nation on the planet”, Marks stated. The HPI also factors in how many of the planets resources we use. Marks then recommended 5 ways to be happier in your life. Connect with family and friends to build better relationships, be active, take notice of things that are going on in the world around you, keep learning and never stop being curious, and lastly give money and time to help other people. This TED video was very thought-provoking and it showed an unusual approach to world issues.
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Hirschman, David. “#11: Allow Infant Euthanasia | Dangerous Ideas.” Big Think. 12 Aug. 2010. Web. 01 Sept. 2010. http://bigthink.com/ideas/21676.
This article and video showed an interview with Peter Singer, a professor at Princeton, who believes that parents should be given the option to euthanize their baby if they are born with a severe disability. He believes that instead of letting the child die a slow but natural death, they should die swiftly and humanely if the parent does not want a disabled child. In another part of the article, Eva Kittay talks about her own severely disable child, rejecting the idea of infant euthanasia. She notes that just because the child is disabled does not necessarily mean they are near death. She brings up the fact that the child can still live a good life and the parents can still love their child, despite their disability.
I passionately agree with Kittay. Infant euthanasia is never okay. Peter Singer has obviously never known a severely disabled child to experienced the love that child gives. Singer suggested to Big Think that there are many conditions in which he thinks euthanasia is acceptable, if the family wishes it. “I would include severe cases of epidermolysis bullosa, Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, babies born without an intestine, trisomy 13 and trisomy 18.” My older sister Liz was born with trisomy 18. She was truly a blessing, and I would never for a minute think it would have been better to euthanize her. Liz died when I was only 5 years old, yet she taught me so many important life lessons like not taking life for granted and accepting people how they are. She made me into who I am today and I know that if Peter Singer had known my sister, he would have changed his mind. Singer has obviously overlooked the impact these children have on their family and other people they encounter, which is a major part of this issue.
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Lehrer, By Jonah. “Why Money Makes You Unhappy | Wired Science | Wired.com.” Wired News. 21 July 2010. Web. 02 Sept. 2010. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/07/happiness-and-money-2/.
The author of this article believes that having a lot of money can sometimes contribute to being unhappy. This contradicts the idea that has been drilled into our brains since the day we were born. People have told us things like, ‘you want to make lots of money’ and ‘you are only successful if you are rich’. The goal of society as a whole is to make money. However, if money makes us unhappy, it seems like society has the wrong ideas. This article mentions several studies that show that having money makes you almost immune to savoring the special things in life.  The article states that people with money think they are treating themselves to a nice vacation or an expensive dinner, but in reality, they are spoiling themselves to the point that they won’t enjoy the simple pleasures. If you don’t find happiness in a simple thing such as a beautiful sunset or a chocolate bar, you will feel much less happy overall. In the end, we as a society need to “better enjoy what really matters, which is all the stuff money can’t buy”.
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Responses

  1. Janelle, you really picked some thought-provoking sources, so nice job. Furthermore, your writing made them interesting to read about. (As a teacher, when I feel entertained, that means that you, as a writer, are kicking serious butt, so nice job :-)).

    And wow: talk about a source hitting close to home (of course, I’m talking about the second source which mentioned Peter Singer). Usually, the best projects that students can embark on are ones that start with a personal connection, and your stance on euthanasia is certainly driven by such a connection. Of course, you don’t have to pursue that, but it’s a thought.

    Jacob Appel, a bioethicist, shares, I think, some of Singer’s views; you can find his Big Think interview here:

    http://bigthink.com/ideas/19240

    (He has other pretty provocative opinions on that website that are worth checking out.)

    You also wrote on a couple of sources regarding happiness. (And I just have to say that Jonah Lehrer is awesome: I sometimes think that anyone could get a complete education just by reading his blog alone.) There are some good books out there on this topic, including:

    1. http://www.amazon.com/Stumbling-Happiness-Daniel-Gilbert/dp/1400077427/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1283637170&sr=8-1

    2. http://www.amazon.com/Happiness-Project-Morning-Aristotle-Generally/dp/0061583251/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1283637189&sr=1-1

    I’ve had students read both of these books, and they all really liked them.

    Thanks for giving me some thought-provoking stuff to consider Janelle…and please keep up the good writing!!

    Mr. A


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