Denmark has been rated as one of the happiest countries in the world for some years running (I think that Norway won this year’s test). But, when reporters asked a prominent university professor in Copenhagen why his answer was, well…very Danish.
“We simply lower our expectations.”
Having lived in Denmark for some years and being fluent in Danish, I had to chuckle. That answer sums up the attitude of the Danish culture as I have experienced it. This seems very un-American and at the very least unattractive to Americans. But, I believe that it is true, at least in a sense.
Recently in a conversation another somewhat “Danish” attitude towards happiness cropped up. The interviewer asked how to be happy and the answer appropriated was:
“Always remember that it could be worse.”
This, too, has a ring of truth in it. Lowering our expectations and remembering that things could get worse does help. Not expecting so much and being better than a worse scenario has the resulting happiness, at least in a sense of the word. And perhaps that is enough, but perhaps not.
Then again,I am reminded of a song lyric (Queens of the Stone Age) that also alludes to happiness:
“Ignorance is bliss, until someone takes your bliss away.”
If you read, you might be reminded of an ancient philosophical idea (originated by Socratic philosophers) that says the same thing. As J.S Mill wrote alluding to that idea:
“It is better to be miserable as Socrates than happy as a pig.”
So can a pig lower it’s expectations, and in doing so is it reminded, as it is shuffled off to slaughter, that things could be worse?