Last year’s Book Lover’s page-a-day calendar wasn’t too exciting, but this year’s seems to have a lot of intriguing titles. I’ve begun to amass not only piles of physical books to be read, but now I have a pile of calendar pages scattered about. Some may never see themselves into my hands.
One that I recently finished was The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner (2008). I must admit that when I first began the book, the introduction had me, but once I got to chapter one: “The Netherlands: Happiness Is a Number,” I almost stopped reading. Was it out of boredom, was I not relating? I’m not sure. After setting the book aside for a few days, I decided to come back to it again, give it another go. I’m glad I did. Weiner’s style had me laughing through the book and I found that he held my attention and had interesting observations.
The countries he visited and reported on were The Netherlands, Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India, and America. The subtitles to each chapter alone gave me a laugh or a smile. You can purchase or search inside the book at Amazon.
The chapter that resonated with me most was the one on Iceland where “Happiness is Failure.” It made an impression on me for several reasons:
-The relationship Icelanders have with their language and the joy they get from it;
-Everyone seems to be an artist of some kind;
-Weiner observed that there did not seem to be much envy in Iceland.
-On Failure. In a conversation with an interesting Icelander, Larus had this to say: “Failure doesn’t carry a stigma in Iceland. In fact, in a way, we admire failures” (pg. 163). Of course, Weiner’s reaction was such that anyone would share. What!? And to answer his confusion, Larus, replied, “Let me put it this way. We like people who fail if they fail with the best intentions. Maybe they failed because they weren’t ruthless enough, for instance” (pg. 163). This alone is a great bit of wisdom to reflect upon, for how many times do we find ourselves afraid to do something because of our fear to fail? It’s so valuable to be able to see how other people from different cultures deal with common issues, with being human.
The Geography of Bliss left me with a lot to contemplate, other views to consider. It was insightful and fun to go along for the ride with Weiner on his quest to explore his nagging question.
It’s ironic that I wasn’t in the right “place” when I first started the book and all it took was coming back with a new day’s mindset, finding myself loving the “place(s)” that I then found myself traveling into.