The social historian Peter Stearns has an essay on the history of happiness at the Harvard Business Review website. It's a great read. The U.S., of course, is Happiness Central.
  • We enshrined the pursuit of happiness in our Declaration of Independence in 1776
  • The song "Happy Birthday" was composed by an American in 1926, and is now sung all around the world.
  • The smiley face was designed by the American Harvey Ball in 1963. It has proven endlessly adaptable. I like the stoner one.
  • McDonald's introduced the Happy Meal in 1977.
  • The laugh track is an American invention.
  • Bobby McFerrin had a huge hit with "Don't Worry, Be Happy" in 1988. 
  • And then Pharrell Williams hit big a couple years ago with "Happy," which posits that "happiness is the truth." Getting metaphysical about it.
And look at all the American self-help books and "power of positive thinking" mega-churches like Joel Osteen's. Does all this overt focus on happiness mean we're delusional, naive, or misguided? I don't think so, as long as happiness isn't an obligation. And it can be a tad weird sometimes. Like when Zippy asks if we are having fun yet.


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