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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mathematics of Happiness

I have always been fascinated with mathematics.  When I was young I saw a sign on my grandmother's desk which read "Monday is a lousy way to spend one seventh of your life".  That got me thinking about the numbers of my life.  Bear with me while I play with them a bit.

If I live productively to be eighty years old I will have lived 960 months or 4,160 weeks or 29,120 days.  If I dread Mondays, that will be 4,160 miserable days of my life.  If I even take off the first 20 years in which I was not working and the last 20 years after I retire, that still leaves 2,080 unhappy days.  That just seems wrong.  I can't waste that many days when there seem to be so few in total.

So why does Monday get dumped on so badly?  Obviously because it ends the weekend and our society teaches us that fun happens on the weekends.  We are surrounded by messages that tell us that weekends are the time for partying, getting together with friends, we work our weeks so that we can enjoy our weekends.  This is all based on the notion that work is not fun.  If it is fun then it is not work and somehow it is not proper.

Perhaps this all ties in with a recurring idea in history that we are meant to suffer.  Life needs to be miserable in order to be "good" or worthy.  Happy people are either mentally unbalanced, intellectually challenged, or somehow unfairly supported by other suffering souls.  Our rational brains tell us that this is silly but we are so indoctrinated into the idea of salvation through sacrifice and suffering that we subconsciously are suspicious of truly happy people. 

I must apologize because I am unashamedly happy.  I have been that way for a long time.  I love Mondays as much as I love Fridays but then I don't work - at least not in terms of suffering.  I follow my passion and teach children.  I get fulfillment and energy from my "job" and have no cravings for weekends or retirement.

So why am I going on about the math of happiness?  Because I see it in children when they first enter the school.  Many are teenagers who have had an love of learning pummeled out of them.  The first joy of going to school in kindergarten has changed through a realization that school is often boring, usually irrelevant, and sometimes painful.  By the time they come to us, school is something to be suffered through in order to start living.

This is a crime of such magnitude that it makes me want to weep.  How can children ever acquire the skills to pursue their passion if they hate learning?  How can they even know what their passion is if they are not given the opportunity to explore it?  How can they learn what they need to know to turn that passion in a means of support?  Why does our society "teach" them that both school and work are necessary evils in life? 

By the end of Grade 12 a child will have spent nearly 2,500 days in school.  That is 2,500 days where they can be exposed to the wonders of the world with enthusiastic guides helping them along their own personal journeys.  Since we only go from Grades 7 to 12, we only have them for just over a thousand days.  And yet they can learn so quickly if they are happy.  They want to learn if school is seen as a million open doors for exploration and adventure.  It is my sincere wish that none of my students ever has to hate Mondays.  And so far, we are doing just great.

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