“SpongeBob is one of the greatest believers in the American dream in all of children’s entertainment. He’s courageous, he’s optimistic, he’s representing everything that Mickey Mouse should have represented but never did. There’s even something Jesus-like about him—a 9-year-old Jesus after 15 packets of Junior Mints.”
— Greg Rowland, a branding consultant on the moral influence of SpongeBob Square Pants, the children's toy and cartoon phenomenon in America.
I saw this quote in the latest issue of The Atlantic. The article from this issue that everyone is talking about is Joshua Shenk's piece on happiness. Because it is based on 70+ year study it is being treated more seriously than your garden variety self-help article on this topic. Here are two of the most interesting paragraphs:
But why, he asked, do people tell psychologists they’d cross the street to avoid someone who had given them a compliment the previous day?
In fact, Vaillant went on, positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones. One reason is that they’re future-oriented. Fear and sadness have immediate payoffs—protecting us from attack or attracting resources at times of distress. Gratitude and joy, over time, will yield better health and deeper connections—but in the short term actually put us at risk. That’s because, while negative emotions tend to be insulating, positive emotions expose us to the common elements of rejection and heartbreak.
Here's Will Wilkinson's take. Yes, solid relationships are the key to happiness, but it's not so simple:
Vaillant points out that even the most “mature” strategies for adapting to disappointment, injury, or failure can strain our most intimate, sustaining relationships. And the reality of relationships over time tends to call for defenses that can threaten relationships. A positive, outgoing person may love freely and easily, but then become shattered by betrayal. Then what do you do? Steel yourself for the possibility of future pain by keeping some part of yourself private and out of the way? But then what have you done to your capacity to be nourished by intimacy and love? A lifetime of rich relationships is not easy and therefore neither is the best kind of life.