Happiness is, it seems to me, a secondary (tertiary?) consequence of a certain calibration of experience, observation, expectation, and insight. Happiness, when worth the word, must reflect reality. It may be most commonly experienced when giving close attention to a very specific reality or – moving to the opposite extreme – assuming an especially broad perspective. In between seldom seems a happy place.
Three observations that may, depending on your expectation and insight, start the New Year on a happy note:
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has been much more effectively contained than many expected as recently as September. I am surprised it was possible to so quickly contain the virus in Lagos and so dramatically beat-it-back in Monrovia. The recent progress in Sierra Leone is encouraging. There are many components to this good news, but especially important has been the ability to stimulate and organize voluntary behavioral change mostly through neighbors working with neighbors. There are still serious risks – both local and global – but we ought not deny nor minimize the considerable progress achieved in the midst of a very tough context and dealing with a terrible disease.
The 2014 holiday supply chain did not collapse. In late 2013 multichannel demands and overwhelmed distribution nodes showed us how a complex adaptive system can cascade close to full-stop at just the worst time. What has happened for toys and electronic gadgets is also possible for food, pharmaceuticals, and fuel. Some have worried the contemporary supply chain may be approaching its outer limits. Well, apparently not yet. The strains are still significant. The risks are real. But some lessons were learned and effectively applied, including crucial aspects of competitive self-restraint. Last year a new generation of supply chain leaders encountered a latter-day Jacob Marley. They have not yet experienced the want and ignorance of Christmas-future. There is much yet to learn. Still, Christmas-past has engendered some healthy self-criticism.
As ISIL, ISIS, Da’ish rolled through Mosul and rapidly down the Tigrus some saw a new powerhouse of terrorism emerging. It remains a threat, but is considerably less potent than was sometimes perceived last summer. Moreover, its brutal methods have been so offensive to millions of Muslims that – whatever the occasional tactical success – the Caliph wanna-be has already been widely rejected. From every corner of the Umma and nearly every Ulema such violent extremism is branded as Haram. While predators troll the Internet for the disaffected, the vast majority of faithful are motivated to words and action that clearly communicate whatever ISIL may be, Islamic it is not. The worst is sometimes required to compel the best to action.
2015 is unlikely to be any easier than 1915, 1815, or most any leap back. Whether it is better or worse is mostly up to us, as individuals and together. For better and worse, there are many more of us and what once was distant can now seem quite close.
“Happiness is an acquisition.” Adagia by Wallace Stevens