As is often the case with articles in The New Yorker, it’s a dense, complicated piece of writing, and as my dad used to say, “I’m not sure I understand everything I know about it,” but I do want to pull out several key quotes this and next week, and encourage you to think about them.
There’s a debate in our culture about what really makes us happy, which is summarized by, on the one hand, the book “On the Road” and, on the other, the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The former celebrates the life of freedom and adventure. The latter celebrates roots and connections.
Research over the past thirty years makes it clear that what the inner mind really wants is connection. “It’s a Wonderful Life” was right.
Joining a group that meets just once a month produces the same increase in happiness as doubling your income.
According to research by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, economist Alan B. Krueger, and others, the daily activities most closely associated with happiness are social—having sex, socializing after work, and having dinner with friends. Many of the professions that correlate most closely with happiness are also social—a corporate manager, a hairdresser.
Last Sunday I was preaching from the pulpit, holding up a copy of our Guide to St. James’, encouraging people to find, and get involved in a small group or ministry that meets between Sunday mornings. Encouraging people to get involved in a small group or ministry is one of three legs of a solid spirituality (the other two being individual private prayer/Bible reading, and coming together for corporate [Sunday morning or Wednesday noon] worship.)
As I stood there, I found myself thinking: “I’ll bet some people think I’m encouraging them to get involved in a small group or a ministry because it’s good for St. James’ -- it makes for a healthy faith community.”
And while I suppose that’s true -- the more people involved in small groups and ministries the healthier the whole church is -- that is NOT the primary, or even major, reason I was encouraging people to become connected to a small group or ministry.
I want people to get involved, get connected, because it’s good for them. Research over the past thirty years makes it clear that what the inner mind really wants is connection.
Browse the Guide to St. James’. There’s something for everyone. If you can’t find something you’re interested in, invent something.
Why? Because “It’s a Wonderful Life” was right. Joining a group that meets just once a month produces the same increase in happiness as doubling your income.
Because it’s good. For you.