Midway into my career as a professional, something that seemed incredible, at least for a professional, struck me: Money doesn't buy happiness.
Grandparents and gurus have said this through the ages. But who listened? Not me. A friend of mine said once that "People don't take this happiness stuff serious. They think it's poor conversation."
But now, the keys to happiness are unlocking the doors of would-be wealth. At least for me they are.
If earning more money generally does little or even nothing to make the people of societies happier, what works better? Good health? Marriage? Sex with intent to have orgasm? A study shows boosting the frequency of sex in a marriage from once a month to once a week brings as much happiness as an extra $50,000 a year, since that is what a person who wants sex that much would have to pay for porn to replace sex that much.
Consider the sex study. How do they get to the figure of "an extra $50,000?" It doesn't matter. If you are happy, $50,000 equals $1 million. Not $2 million, $1 million. If you go beyond equalling $1 million, researchers say, you have to make it group sex.
Happiness' enthusiasts emphasize they could harness the power of happiness to ease the energy crisis, even without adding sex to the equation.
Their findings often suggest governments could turn more attention to things that cheer people up. The options include better medical care, greater job security and for everyone in the nation to win Powerball at least once.
Bhutan, a small Buddhist nation in the Himalayas, plans to introduce an array of "happiness indicators," even though Chinese restaurants around the world refuse to include these gems of happy inspiration as fortune-cookie messages.
Skeptics question whether this and other efforts are going to make people happy. "That's why we are skeptics," said one skeptic. "If we believed anything would work, would that be skeptical? No. So, we question this happy thing."
The study of happiness also attracts neuroscientists, sociologists and members of the road company of Death of a Salesman.
Economists sometimes collaborate with these experts, but psychologists believe that happiness without money is something solely for "our patients."
But other academics wonder if this is a place for happiness in modern times.
"I think whoever coined the term 'dismal' was an unhappy person," said Mihaly Cosikpzenzoomihallo, a prominent psychologist whose name is yet to be pronounced correctly by anyone. He also said " I wouldn't mistake real life for what happy people talk about."
Mainstream happy people, accustomed to smiling, frequently view the attitude surveys examine by laughing, often sending spit airborne.
But now I, a professional, am considering changing my name to Enrico Marcelli, a Harvard researcher who earned his doctorate from USC. He says "happiness among American adults peaks at age 51 — earlier than many other researchers had believed — and that men start becoming happier than women after the age of 48."
I know I would be happier, at 56, to be called Enrico.
Now, data available from 1946 to 1970 claims that the average U.S. family became more than 60% richer, it didn't make Americans happier. In late 1947, about 42% of Americans surveyed said they were "very happy." Though the numbers went up and down over the decades, a similar poll found that only 43% declared themselves "very happy" in 1969 and in 1970 most said they were given to reading Jean-Paul Satre daily.
By the 1990s, however, happiness began to emerge and recently, in the United States and other wealthy nations, "we're just so many times richer than our grandparents were that we can afford to think, 'Do we actually need more money now?' " said a distant relative of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of shooting President Kennedy.
Yet the biggest names in happiness are the empiricists, who condemn misery and suicides.
"We're trying to understand how people feel and to try to get a measure of that," said Ed "Wonderful" Jones, a respected happy man who was recently named the captain of his hometown bowling team, The Scavenger Pussballs.
So, not being paid for this essay makes me happy because I have shared it and people have read it and perhaps some will consider it the cornerstone of their life.
Whatever. Just call me Enrico.