In Pursuit of Happiness

Aren't we all? Happiness is practically enshrined as an American pursuit, and it seems there's no end to studies telling us how happy we are (or are not). No end to accounts of having achieved happiness through eating, praying, loving, etc. No end to self-help books telling us how to find happiness in seven steps, 21 ways, nine rooms, or 75 (!) secrets.

Yet, in the absence of universal happiness, questions linger. In this special issue, Johns Hopkins Magazine seeks answers to some of those questions. You won't find the secret to happiness. What you will find is a lively exploration of the topic, and, we hope, some new ideas to ponder in your own pursuit.

September 3, 2010 |  by Michael Anft

For the sake of happiness, indulge in this fantasy: Think of a tropical island where the sun shines and the fish jump, where exotic fruits fall off the trees into your hands and gracious people move through their paces as they have for centuries, and where time passes as slowly as the days unfold. Who […]

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September 3, 2010 |  by Dale Keiger

Carol Graham’s transition from Dr. Poverty to Dr. Happy began in the late 1990s when something she found in Peru did not make sense. Graham, SAIS ’86, was born in Lima in 1962, and spent so much time there as a child that she sometimes says “we” when speaking of Peruvians. (Her father, George C. […]

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September 3, 2010 |  by Deborah Rudacille

Sometimes waking life resembles a nightmare. Picture a graduate student walking through a Romanian orphanage that has hundreds of cribs. In each of them are two or three emotionally or physically malnourished infants, many crying or catatonic, with the student slipping from room to room like a ghost. For six hours she just wanders, never […]

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What Makes You Happy?

September 3, 2010 |  by Johns Hopkins Staff

Listening to Mozart while reading a book. Going out to dinner, so I don’t have to cook. Snuggling a puppy from my Lab’s new litter. Watching baseball when they have a good hitter. Gathering family for good conversation. Volunteering for the Child Health Foundation. Solving a crossword or creating a rhyme. Hugging my sweetheart any old time. —Jo Sack, wife […]

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The Happy Adventurer

September 3, 2010 |  by Farai Chideya

I bet my ancestors never thought meeting the Klan would make one of their descendants happy. But picture this: A blizzard has transformed the park-n-ride lot in Frederick, Maryland, into the interior of a treasured snow globe. The few cars in the lot must have been left the night before. They are covered, gentle snow-capped […]

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Our Declaration of Happiness

September 3, 2010 |  by P.J. O’Rourke

American exceptionalism annoys the world. Happiness is the source of annoyance. Other countries are built upon battle, blood, nationality, culture, language, and territory. America is the exception. Our foundation is the pursuit of happiness. It appears in the first sentence of our Declaration of Independence—the one novel feature of the document, coming as something of […]

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Happy Face, Glad Hand

September 3, 2010 |  by Benjamin Ginsberg and Alexander Ginsberg

In the coming months, we’ll be seeing a lot of smiling, handshaking politicians asking for our votes. But behind their cheerful public faces, politicians tend to be gloomy individuals. During the course of America’s history, many leading politicians (and even their spouses) have been given to long bouts of severe melancholy and even depression. Well-known […]

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Happy Now?

September 3, 2010 |  by Barbara Ehrenreich

But are you happy?” That’s the killer question I’ve faced repeatedly since the publication of my book Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. I take a deep breath because I know what’s at stake. If I come across as unhappy or even a little conflicted, I can be dismissed as […]

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Happiness in Maine

September 3, 2010 |  by Stephen Dixon

Here’s a memory that’s come back a lot of times. He doesn’t know why, but it’s just stuck. They’re in the minivan. Left Belfast about a half hour before and were heading south on Route 1 toward Bath and 95, which they’d take to the Kennebunkport exit. They’d spend the night at an inn there […]

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Happy Together

September 3, 2010 |  by Bill McKibben

Since I work on a college campus, I have a front row seat to that annual spring rite, the arrival of the reunion classes. About a week after Commencement, the surviving members of the 25th and the 50th and sometimes even the 75th classes arrive, for a round of cocktail parties and lectures and golf […]

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