What Causes Happiness? (Expanded version)

World Happiness Report 2015 ranked top 10 happiest countries namely Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Finland, Netherlands Sweden, New Zealand, and Australia. Notice that these are developed nations with established public healthcare, social capital, stable socio-politics/economics and lack of corruption. These are some of the primary factors that lead to the nations’ life satisfaction and life expectancy. People do live longer if they are satisfied with life. You could rule out suicide if there is less life discontentment and mental illness.


While the annual GDP of these nations register good and stable growth, it wasn’t all about money but altruistic governance toward a better-managed commons and equality to all. However, as magnanimous as this may sound, there is also no denying that money does buy happiness.

Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling On Happiness, puts it succinctly, “But the idea that money is unrelated to happiness is also ridiculous. And all you have to do is go stand outside with no coat, no shoes, nowhere to go and hungry and in about five minutes you go ‘wow, money would make me happier’ and you’re right. So money is obviously related to happiness, but its relationship is intricate and complex.”

But then experientia docet, experience being the best teacher, tells us that money and all its pursuit would make us miserable and mad. For one, money can’t buy you love – real love that is.

Money in itself is not evil but the love of it is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10 NET). Sonja Lyubomyrsky of Scientific American wrote, “Worshiping mammon foments evil ways.”


These top ranked happiest countries focus on building stronger social ties and building a strong sense of community. They also have extrovert traits with penchant for traveling, meeting people and experiencing other cultures. “There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, co-researcher of World Happiness Report. We’ve got it right finally.


So now, if they hit the top 10 Happiness billboard chart, we learned that the key to being happier is to focus on doing things that makes them happy and less on what does not. We may learned a vital lesson from these countries ie. paying attention on what matters in your life. What matters to these nations are activities that not just contribute to their personal well-being but the common good.

“Our attention is a scarce resource. Paying attention on one thing is attention not devoted to another,” said Dr Paul Dolan. Akin to containing fire by starving it off oxygen that fuels its rage, when we desist from feeding – focusing – on the bad thoughts, it eventually would die. And if our attention is a scarce resource, you would be more careful in cherishing and using the resource. You won’t simply squander it, would you?

If you keep thinking on a sad experience, then you would be sad. If you focus on how badly you were prejudiced this week, by devoting to this thought, you would soon miss out on the kindness of others in your life. (There is prejudice everywhere you go.) The negative thoughts you fixated on in your mind release stress hormones, cortisol, which has a silent deleterious effect on your health in the long term. You have to sow good seeds in your mind so you get to reap good fruits. And this would add healthy years to your life. A healthy mind yields a healthy life.

Based on a famous attention experiment conducted by Daniel Simons & Christopher Chabris at Harvard University, videos were made of two teams of students dressed black or white, who passed a basketball back and forth. Then they asked students to count how many passes the players dressed in white made. The participants were asked if they had seen anyone other than the players.


More than half the participants failed to notice a large furry gorilla walking directly through the teams in play. Because the participants were paying attention to counting the number of passes the players made, they did not see the gorilla at all!

If you do not want to miss out the gorilla in your life, pay attention to what you pay attention to.


I’m certainly not referring to missing out the gorilla, literally, but the intended and serendipitous events and blessings in your life.  How can you be happy if you keep your minds on the wrongs inflicted on you? As man is imperfect, whimsical and capricious, there would always be flaws in his action. If you allow these to affect you’ll be caught in its deadly unending vortex of bitterness and pain.

How to counter this in an imperfect world and maintain Happiness?

1. Watch what you’re thinking about.


2. Make the best of what you have.


3. Be thankful for what you have.



4. Do what makes you happy. 


If it’s right, good and beneficial, do and keep doing it.  Keep doing things that makes you happy. If reading a good book or watching a meaningful movie or taking your dog out for strolls makes you happy, go ahead and keep doing it. Studies revealed that in participating in engrossing activities like these elevate your level of phenylethylamine. This is a natural, organic compound in your brain that helps regulate mood, stress and, take note, controls mental attention – in other words, focus! What you focus on makes you absorbed in the activity causes you to lose track of time. This is why time seems to fly when you are enjoying yourself.

Now, go lose some time in your Happiness and not your mind.

By @Johnnny_5


It Does Not Make Sense

It does not make sense. 

There are things that people do that I do not understand. 

By the way he moved, you couldn’t missed this man in a crowded Haiti market. He was swaying his head from side to side. You would think he was reggaeing. He was not but merely yielding to the soundscape around him. He was blind. His head perpetually bent down in shame. His smattering of clothes clung on to his skin and bones. Flies swarmed and settled around him. His legs were disproportionate to his body, bent at awkward angles. In his hand was a bowl. He was begging. In the sea of people, nobody noticed him. 

He hobbled to the sound of a stream by the road. It was really more of a dark-colored bog of human feces. He sat down beside it and using a cardboard, started dredging the bottom of the filth. He was rummaging for anything to sell for food. Anything, for himself. 

Jon Weece approached him, knelt down beside him, “My name is Jon, and I want to be your friend.” “Thank you,” he whispered. In their conversation that went on, the decrepit soul opened up to Jon, “My parents broke my legs when I was a baby so that I could beg and bring in money for our family.”

I do not and cannot understand why a child’s parents would break his legs. Even if it, in their morbid ignorance and want, served a purpose. This does not make sense to me.  

By @Johnnny_5
Inspired by Jon Weece, Jesus Prom. 


Tap Dancing

Have you ever dance Salsa or Fox Trot in a bathroom under a spray of water? If you have a chance encounter with ill-designed washbasin taps (faucets for Americans) in a public toilet, then you would have. Of the many designs of washbasin taps, there is the spring-controlled type where you palm the top of the tap and the water shoots out. As long as your palm is pressed on the tap head, the water is released. The moment your hand is lifted, the water is cut off. It’s designed this way to conserve water especially for a public toilet. If the owner of the public toilet is to install the conventional turn-screw taps, there’s a greater chance of water wastage.

As you know there are uncivilized public who would not be bothered to turn off the tap after use. The water would gush out like the rainstorm of Noah’s days, and, lo and behold, flood the entire washroom and given time, deluge the entire city. Of course, I’m exaggerating my point.

The problem – and it’s no joke – of this spring-controlled design is that when you palmed the tap, the water is propelled like a watery cannon. There’s no mercy here as you would very soon find out when the vehement jet of water slams into the wash bowl, and ricochet in a myriad of directions. And inundates you like a runaway garden sprinkler. Then, there are some that you simply can’t palm-press with both hands – and even feet –  because it’s so adamant!

If you think you could outsmart the tap (and runaway water) by a quick sleight of hand pressing on and off the tap, hoping that the small burst of water would not give you a free public bath, well, think again. The spurts of water would still possess the unbridled power of the Niagara Falls and assail you like a semi-automatic weapon. Instead of bang, bang and bang, it’s shush, shush and shush! You get soaked. No, make that drenched. It’s also the best time to test if your Pierre Cardin shirt and pants and Charles Jordan 100% silk tie would shrink or not.

That’s not the end of this encounter. You would think that the other washbasins in the toilet would not be this merciless to you. Think again. You could jump from one basin to another with the agility of a Salsa dancer, shifting your sinewy hip (assuming you have such hip) from one side to the other trying to avoid the jets of water. You get drenched anyway. You would think from all the hours of watching the Dirty Dancing video, you could dart away dry with the Swayze swing.

By the time you ran the gauntlet, your lower half of your clothing would stick to you like mucous at the back of your throat on a cold Monday morning. And you still have not really washed your hands like you intended to before the start of this madness. It would also be a sight when you sneak out into the open. Suddenly hundreds of pairs of eyes would home in your direction while you sheepishly attempt to cover the dark drenched patch of your clothed groin – of all places – with some pages of the Times.

Who’s the moron who designs such taps? Who’s the moron of an owner who installs such taps? Because of their moronic invention, now you have a moron-looking fellow – and poor man that he is – scurrying out of the mall scantily clad in the Times newspapers, leaving a watery trail.

Dang! How did that happen?

Dang! How did that happen?

Just. Keep. Writing.

Victoria (V.E.) Schwab

Hey there, lovelies!

I know it’s been awhile since I posted. I’ve spent the last few months buried under deadlines and finishing up coursework–so far this year I’ve gone to grad school, and written and edited THREE books, all coming out next year–and getting ready to head back to Nashville.

But in the slivers of space between, I’ve been reflecting a lot–about writing, publishing, advice–and I wanted to talk about a piece of advice that I know seems trite, but is honestly the best I can give. I’ll try to explain why.

Five years into my publishing career, I finally feel like I have my feet under me, and because of that, I’m often asked for advice.

When writers–aspiring, debut, and established–ask for insight, I always say, “Just keep writing.”

And I know that sounds like a very Dory thing to say, but the fact of the matter is, if…

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The Difference Between Happiness and Joy

WHAT’S the difference between happiness and joy?

Happiness = from Greek’s makarios = freedom of the rich from normal cares and worries.

Happiness describes a person who received good fortune or just bought a new iPhone as he parades out of a hands-clapping avenue of well-trained Apple staff. 

Joy = from Greek’s chairo = ”good mood of the soul’ and is found only in God and comes from virtue and wisdom’ (Anne Robertson, pastor of Methodist Bible Society quoted by Brené Brown, author, research professor, University of Houston).

Joy bubbles forth from our spirit and heart of gratitude from contentment and well-being usually to God who has helped us. Joy feels deeper. It gives no illusion that the feeling of well-being will evaporate since it’s not attached to circumstances or weather or the vicissitudes of stock shares.  

Joy is intense. It seizes you unexpectedly like when you slipped on a wet floor and fall on your bum. It makes you unpretentious, giddy and silly like a schoolgirl. (Why not school boy? I don’t quite know but girls usually behave this way as easily as glove slides into hand.)

Happiness attaches to circumstances, the whims and emotions as shifty as the number of likes in Facebook. Or the teenybopper adulation for a celebrity who can’t really act. ‘OMG! There’s my idol….! I could almost die!’ Please don’t. 

How to cultivate and maintain joy? 


Be grateful for what you have now.

Abandon fear. 

‘Don’t live life like you’re on the emergency lane, always rushing.’ (Ann Voskamp).

Don’t forecast, don’t predict, don’t extrapolate. 

Dance yourself silly.  When no one is watching. Or if the world is watching,  who cares.

Feel the sun on your face and skin. And feel how alive you are. 

(That’s how the man in red spandex regain his power.)

Gaze at the full moon on a starry night. It’s spellbinding. Don’t howl. Well, howl if you must. 

Don’t forget to breathe. 

Listen. Pay attention. Not to noises but the serenade of the crickets in the still of the night. Listen too to the still small voice that comes stealthily in the quiet of the night prompting and urging you to make right where you’ve gone wrong.


Give thanks to God constantly for the moments you have. 

Why you need effort to hold joy?

Because joy – and happiness – is not constant. Because we are easily perturbed by the many things that assails our poor soul every moment of our life.  We are easily distracted in a noisy busy world. 

Live from a place of gratitude and not wanting and coveting. 

And joy will come again and knock on your heart’s door. 

By @Johnnny_5


Age of Wisdom and Double Choc Fudge

Age of Wisdom image

Knowledge can be gathered at any time and as it elevates and builds up, it has a proclivity to puff us up. Wisdom, in the other hand, pares down all that puffs up and tells – better yet, forewarn – us to be watchful lest the Goliath in us falls from the height of pride. 

Wisdom is not instant but grows with life’s experiences and age. It grows out of humility, the opposing end of pride. Knowledge, if it’s the wrong kind, corrupts.  Wisdom matures and helps us make wise choices, but that is if we don’t forget and learn from our past experiences.  That’s like when you forget that gobbling up one piece too many of the double chocolate fudge cake and you regret it how that puffs you up and adds inches to your waistline.

Corruption–and Copulation–in the Baltimore City Detention Center

Joyce Mitchell is not exactly the world’s definition of ‘hot, gorgeous, sexy’ woman but the escapees managed to play on her weaknesses and used it to their advantage. This certainly tells us something about the unctuous sly minds of criminals on any receptive nubile minds of their victims. This applies to the corporate and ecumenical world too. Well, some.


Joyce Mitchell, alleged accomplice to two murderers on the loose from Clinton-Dannemora correctional facility in New York, is hardly the only prison employee to ever have allegedly aided—and had sex with—detainees. From Jeffrey Toobin’s “This Is My Jail” in the April 14, 2014 issue of The New Yorker:

Many relationships between guards and inmates appear to have been consensual, and initiated by the inmates. “When they started having these really young girls as guards, that’s when it really went downhill,” the former inmate Kevin said. “They get infatuated with the gang members.” In a way, the more serious the charges against an inmate, the more deference he would be accorded by the guards. “Most of the C.O.s, they was young,” Vernon, another former inmate, told me. “If you came in with high-profile charges, they would treat you with more respect. The big-time drug kingpins would be more likely to…

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In Pursuit of the Power Plant Gai-tronics Gray Phone Ghost

Amazing walk down memory lane. And Goonies! They sure don’t do movies like in the 80s.

Power Plant Men

Originally Posted June 14, 2013:

When I first watched the movie “The Goonies”, I recognized right away that the script was inspired from another Pirate treasure movie I had watched when I was a child. I have never seen the movie again, and it was probably a made for TV movie or something that has been lost in the archives years ago. I’m sure that Steven Spielberg when he was growing up must have been inspired by this movie when he wrote the script to Goonies, because this was a movie that had inspired us when we were young.

The Goonies looking at the treasure map The Goonies looking at the treasure map

You see… In the movie I had watched as a kid, some children that were trying to save their family or an old house or something similar to the Goonies story, found a clue to where a Pirate treasure was buried. The clue had…

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The People Across the Street

Snotting black

imageSome days when I get back from running, I pour myself a big cup of water from the tap (it’s a blue plastic cup with fish on it that I’ve been drinking out of since college), and sit on the front stoop and watch the houses and street in front of me.

It’s not a very big stoop, just three steps, and there’s not much to look at outside, just some small-ish trees and some dwellings. I’ve lived in the same apartment now for about a year and a half and still don’t really know my neighbors. Maybe it’s because I’m often gone in the evenings or don’t fit in with the demographics of spouse+pet+childrent could also be because I’ve never really made an effort.

I’m not happy about the fact I don’t really know my neighbors though. I want to change it,  so my stoop-sitting is my one small…

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The Unvarying Nature of Truth

The Unvarying Nature of Truth

Which is far more interesting and safe? Sifting through K.C. Cole’s chapter on ‘The Unvarying Nature of Truth’, talking about our need to crack the perfect symmetry of a boring sphere to see a pattern; and affirming that God must be a geometer, since many of the most beautiful patterns created by nature and human nature have a great deal of symmetry. That symmetries are not restricted to space, for some things are symmetrical in time. That it does not matter whether you look at the sugar cube now or five hours later, it will look the same.

Or, spending time talking to a friend?

The answer is obvious: sifting through the lecture on symmetries of the universe and God, of course. As utterly dry and confusing the article on symmetries, I can’t help but find more peace and safety with a book, or a dog, than spending time with a friend. Let me tell you why.

Both are about God, and I don’t mean the dog. They relate to the amazing wonders about the world we live in, and how intertwined our lives are with each other, the world and the hands of God. Never mind that I can hardly understand most of what Cole is saying. Yet, in spending time digesting the incomprehensibility of the symmetries of our world, you don’t have to deal with the hypocrisy of a human being, the attendant pretensions, no matter even if he is your friend, religious or atheistic one, and the lies that derived from his egocentric self. Don’t you realize your friend do possess an ego? It’s just that it’s covered by our rose-tinted perception of people – especially the religious one – or, that the world is a stage and we are all good actors. Believe me, we are born actors.

Now, you don’t have to worry about the eventuality of you getting your feelings riled up if your friend may say or do things insensitive to you. Try asking your friend for the recipe for her fruit cake that you like so much last Christmas. Guess what? She will avoid your request like a F22 fleeing from a heat-seeking missile hot on its tail. No matter that she is your friend, after all, she is subject to change like the willow in the wind.

When I spend time with a book, no matter that it’s an inanimate object, I feel safe. I’m in the world of the book that takes me by my hand, like Peter Pan and the children, leaping off the balcony and soaring through the night sky of my imagination. I feel free.

Are we not made for each other? And free to relate to one another, and find meaning to our existence? That our recognition of one another in such existence will, hopefully, blossom to a valuable purpose, unlike holding a book? No matter how interesting and insightful a book may be, it’s bereft of a real interaction one can find with a human being, religious or atheistic. Yet, it’s still safer and comforting spending time with a book. Think of the ease and swiftness with which you respond to reaching out for a book than calling up some one. Is it any wonder that there are many lonely people out there,with or without a book, isolated by pride, prejudice and pain?

The unvarying nature of truth is that truth is truth; it varies not. God, whomever you hold Him to be, never varies. The unvarying nature of truth about us is that we are all selfish people. Yet, we desire so much to be good and infallible somehow. But we always fall short of that mark due to our nature of humanity. We let ego, pride and self-interests get in our way of our relationship with others. And this self-promotion is made obvious when we play God, or attempt to represent God without a true understanding of who we are, like some religious people do. We try too hard to promote ourselves and not God. We yearn to please ourselves so much without first dying to ourselves. As a result, we hurt people around us in varying ways. And in the process, we, too, are hurt. We forget that unless a grain falls to the ground and dies, it will by no means bear fruit to building better character in us. The unvarying nature of truth about us? We bear the truth even as we are made in the image of God. But the truth in and about us varies to suit our varying whims and fancies in our various circumstances. Soon enough, we lose the truth about who we really are. Come to think of it, we have no truth, really.

So, isn’t it far safer, comforting and interesting spending time with a book than with a friend? Surely it is, unless we die to ourselves first.

Now, let me get back to Cole: If the universe came into being by a burst of pure energy, where did all the antimatter go? It must have been there, because the laws of physics are symmetrical. And if there was as much antimatter as matter, then every bit of matter would have joined with a bit of antimatter and annihilated each other into nothingness. That clearly didn’t happen since something stuck around to evolve into stars and galaxies and planets and us.

Antimatter what? Right, never mind. Now, where’s my dog?