Wednesday, January 25, 2006

happiness, not necessarily economic growth

Economists are beginning to realize that continuous growth is *not* a good thing. In a speech last week, Professor Andrew Oswald reported that new statistical work by psychologists and economists demonstrates that “once a country has filled its larders, there is no point in that nation becoming richer.”

His speech (in the Financial Times—subscription required—-and recounted in the New Economist blog) notes that industrialized nations have not become more happy over time. Oswald attributes this to three reasons: our happiness is usually relative, compared to those around us; we get used to new circumstances fairly rapidly; and we rarely know what really will make us happy.

The fact that we are made happier by comparing ourselves to others I find regretful, and will leave uncommented-upon. The fact that we adapt quickly is related to the fact that everything in the universe goes in cycles. The only thing that grows forever is cancer.

It will still take a while for economists and politicians and the rest of us to stop pursuing growth at any cost, but at least the dawn is beginning to brighten.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

happy new(?) year

It is a little embarrassing to write “happy new year” on January 19th, but there it is. I hope the first 19 days have gone well, and may the next 346 days bring us health, joy, challenge and fulfillment.

Were I a better blogger, I would write more frequently. Alas, I am both busy and lazy, so it may not happen. I would like to commit to writing at least weekly. We just re-wrote our job descriptions at church, and the Congregational Administrator looked at mine and exclaimed, “wow—that’s a lot. Did you know you were doing all that?” To be perfectly honest, I am *not* doing all that; there are a few tasks that don’t occur until spring. Nevertheless, it did give me a little satisfaction, to know that I can document how hard I’m working.

On the other hand, that job description helped me to finally and truly decide that I am not an MRE (Minister of Religious Education). I enjoy that work, and it is definitely good and worthy ministry, but it is not where my best skills (or greatest joys) lie. If, as Frederick Buechner says, “vocation is where my deep joy meets the world’s deep need,” then my vocation involves more preaching. My greatest joy involves crafting and presenting worship.

Ironically enough, a small church (which shall remain un-named) recently declined me for exactly that reason. They’ve been primarily lay-led for a long time, and although they are advertising for a full-time minister, they do not want a preacher. They were very polite about it, and it is probably good that they know what they want. Personally, I think worship is the heart of a congregation, and having a consistent presence as that heart is important. But I’m a preacher—of course I would think that! :-)

I worry that I’m being too self-indulgent, that I am mistaking my own desires for divine guidance, but I am placing my trust in Howard Thurman, who said: “Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

May we all be truly *alive* in 2006.