I just recently read a book that many of you have heard of. It's called The Book of Awesome, based off the 1000 Awesome Things site. This book has been championed by many as an excellent self-help resource. Moreover, it's connected with Maxwell House for its Brew Some Good campaign. Essentially, this two-pronged attack is supposed to help make us realise that there is so much out there to make us happy.
Just what is it out there that we are so worried about? According to the introductory paragraph of 1000 Awesome Things:
"Polar ice caps are melting, hurricanes swirl in the seas, wars are heating up around the world, and the job market is in a deep freeze. That's why one chilly spring night I started a tiny website called 1000 awesome things."
Interesting. So this project, which is framed as an "escape", is essentially designed to help us find distractions in a world where we need to stop ignoring the awful. Not surprisingly, many of the 1000 awesome things that he refers to relate in some way or another to consumption. Some leading examples include: "When the vending machine gives you two things instead of one", "Getting gas just before the price goes up", "Having a whole row to yourself on a flight", or "Eating a free sample of something you have no intention of buying".
Not only are all of these things related to consumption, they are also very Anglocentric. The way that this book is written, many of these short summaries of awesome things sound incredibly attractive, even when I'm trying to read them critically. As someone who has grown up in North America, all of these examples appeal to my upbringing - such as living in a house, not an apartment; or driving a car, not taking public transit. Interestingly enough, he combines these two quite nicely in "Driving through your old neighbourhood and stopping to see the house you grew up in".
To get to my point, though. While I certainly don't want people to overlook the small things that make us happy, I question the message that this book sends about happiness in our lives. Rather than being happy about resolving conflicts, fighting inequality, or working towards making our lives more sustainable, this book teaches us that what matters is the little things like finding money in your coat pocket or eating fries. Also, it seems that happiness is something that happens to us as individuals, not something shared with others. This compartmentalisation is very harmful because it disconnects us from others, preventing people from working together.
While there are certainly good examples from the book that emphasise relationships with others or getting in touch with the environment, these make up such a small component of the project. And what's more, this book is a best seller, it's tied into a marketing campaign for coffee, and is even being used in schools!! I know that the author isn't consciously writing to pacify us - in fact, I would suggest that this is just a byproduct of our society constantly drilling this into us. Just thing - would it not be an amazing idea of someone were to come up with a site that was devoted to the awesome things that we could achieve collectively to make our world a truly better place? Let's get started!