Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Thursday, April 17 – Poem in Your Pocket Day!

I’ve been into reading Emily Dickinson poetry, and since I’m not violating copyright law (Dickinson now in public domain), this has to be one of my favorite poems, simply for being morbid and full of imagery:

BECAUSE I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school where children played
At wrestling in a ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’t is centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity. — Emily Dickinson.

Other stuff, of whimsy and otherwise:

On Time.com: Rewarding people who recycle? Sounds like a great idea to me.

Slate’s Ad Report: Seth Stevenson on the story behind that Travelers’ ad with a man walking around with the whimsical large red umbrella and helping people along the way. Nice insight.


David Leonhardt writes in the NY Times about whether money really is happiness:

[….] In 1974, Richard Easterlin, then an economist at the University of Pennsylvania, published a study in which he argued that economic growth didn’t necessarily lead to more satisfaction.

People in poor countries, not surprisingly, did become happier once they could afford basic necessities. But beyond that, further gains simply seemed to reset the bar. To put it in today’s terms, owning an iPod doesn’t make you happier, because you then want an iPod Touch. Relative income — how much you make compared with others around you — mattered far more than absolute income, Mr. Easterlin wrote. [….]

But now the Easterlin paradox is under attack.

Last week, at the Brookings Institution in Washington, two young economists — from the University of Pennsylvania, as it happens — presented a rebuttal of the paradox. Their paper has quickly captured the attention of top economists around the world. It has also led to a spirited response from Mr. Easterlin.

In the paper, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers argue that money indeed tends to bring happiness, even if it doesn’t guarantee it. They point out that in the 34 years since Mr. Easterlin published his paper, an explosion of public opinion surveys has allowed for a better look at the question. “The central message,” Ms. Stevenson said, “is that income does matter.” [….]

ife satisfaction is highest in the richest countries. The residents of these countries seem to understand that they have it pretty good, whether or not they own an iPod Touch.

If anything, Ms. Stevenson and Mr. Wolfers say, absolute income seems to matter more than relative income. In the United States, about 90 percent of people in households making at least $250,000 a year called themselves “very happy” in a recent Gallup Poll. [….]

[Mr. Easterlin] agreed that people in richer countries are more satisfied. But he’s skeptical that their wealth is causing their satisfaction. The results could instead reflect cultural differences in how people respond to poll questions, he said.

He would be more persuaded, he continued, if satisfaction had clearly risen in individual countries as they grew richer. In some, it has. But in others — notably the United States and China — it has not. [….]

The fact remains that economic growth doesn’t just make countries richer in superficially materialistic ways.

Economic growth can also pay for investments in scientific research that lead to longer, healthier lives. It can allow trips to see relatives not seen in years or places never visited. When you’re richer, you can decide to work less — and spend more time with your friends.

Affluence is a pretty good deal. Judging from that map, the people of the world seem to agree. At a time when the American economy seems to have fallen into recession and most families’ incomes have been stagnant for almost a decade, it’s good to be reminded of why we should care.

So, bottom line to me: what is happiness? If money isn’t it, or maybe it is, or maybe polls are worded badly, what does it – whatever “it” is – lead us?