Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

Roman Halter (1927-2012)

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2012 at 11:30 am

It is with great sadness that I read recently of the passing of Roman Halter.

I first met Roman at the Imperial War Museum, where his personal story is told in The Holocaust Exhibition. After I left the Museum, we continued to write to each other and occasionally meet up for coffee to chat about a variety of subjects, notably museums, architecture and where to get good food in north London.

When working with people in a museum context who have survived something as disturbing and life-changing as the Holocaust, it is sometimes easy to pigeon-hole them. They can perhaps be seen as Holocaust survivors and nothing else. Roman was one of the first survivors I met who really helped me to understand that although people may have lived through and witnessed terrible events as young people, they also have gone on to lead rich, diverse and fulfilling lives afterwards. The Holocuast is only part of a survivor’s life. And it happened 60 years ago – so much more has happened since then.

Roman is remebered today as a survivor of the Holocaust, yes, but also as an architect, a designer and an artist. And as a father and grandfather. It is perhaps fitting that the legacy he leaves behind is a physical one – there are countless Halter stained-glass windows around the world today and I am very proud to have one of his paintings hanging in my study as I write – and an historical one in terms of his personal story during the Second World War. I hope that his story is not forgotten, and that his art continues to inspire people to create beautiful things as well.

Indeed, it is at sad times like these that I am reminded of the power that museums and collecting institutions have in preserving the experiences and memories of people who have lived through periods which have shaped our world. Oral histories, personal possessions and documentary evidence all ensure that we won’t forget stories like this and we won’t forget people like Roman.

On the subject of collecting stories, Roman was kind enough to take part in my ongoing research project into the nature of happiness – a world away from museums, but still a project based around collecting stories. I visited him at his home in 2008 and we chatted for a few hours about his life and experiences in relation to happiness. You can read the interview on this website here. In April 2009 he also sent me a hand-written note with some further thoughts on happiness.

The interview was picked up by The Telegraph, who quoted my conversation with Roman in his obituary, which you can also read here to get a fuller picture of his life.


Pizza, cholocalte and telly

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2010 at 3:55 pm

The results of a BBC survey out today have revealed that the three things that make us most happy in Britain today are pizza, chocolate and the television.

I’m not sure I agree with that entirely, and this little video on the BBC website seems to indicate that people also derive a sense of well being from many other factors in life, such as family, friends, the weather and even happiness itself. And the usual things as well – holiday, money, winning lottery etc.

What makes you happy?
Take a look at my ongoing reserach project in the nature of modern happiness for more inspiration.

How to stay happy in south London

In Dulwich OnView, happiness, new content on July 16, 2010 at 8:50 am

I interviewed a local south London blogger recently about happiness. Sasha runs the Happiness Project London, writing about things in the capital which can help to keep us sane (and hopefully happy) in a world of madness and chaos. There’s an interview with her on this website as part of my ongoing reserach project about the modern state of happiness.

But while I had her, I also asked a few extra questions about life in our area of London so I could write a piece about her for Dulwich OnView. She’s a really interesting character, so I figured she’d make a great addition to the South London People thread we have running on there. Do check out what she says can keep us happy in south London.

Happiness in Brixton

In happiness, new content on July 8, 2010 at 10:11 am

I wrote last week about how I met a blogger who writes in a similar vein to me. The Happiness Project London is a celebration of life in London, encouraging us to enjoy whats great about the city rather than dwelling on expensive, conjested transport and everyone being so busy all the time. Her blog is full of great ideas of things to do to relieve unhappiness and she also points out a number of ‘rules’ which can help us to be “a little more spiritual and a little less selfless”.

Sasha kindly agreed to be interviewed for my ongoing research project about the nature of happiness and what it means to us in a modern context. The interview with Sasha is online now on the happiness pages of this website. She told me about her life and what prompts her to blog about happiness for Londoners.

I was really interested to hear about the beneficial properties of blogging itself – I find myself asking if blogging can make us happy? Given my research is aiming to unpick the nature of happiness today, I’ve been inspired to look at how the technological advances of our time may have affected our happiness. In this case technology has clearly had a positive impact on someone’s life. But I wonder if that’s always the case?

I’ve got more interviews that are still waiting to be written up, so there’ll be more coming online in the next few months. And I’m also lining up other people to be interviewed. If you’ve got an interesting story behind you and you’d like to be involved in the project, do let me know.

Interview with Vishvapani

In happiness, new content on April 21, 2010 at 10:20 am

About a month ago I heard the Buddhist writer and teacher Vishvapani speaking on Thought for the Day (Radio 4) about happiness. I blogged about it at the time here.

I was struck by what he’d said so I sent him an email and told him about my research project looking at the subject of happiness and what it means to us today. And fortunately for me he kindly accepted my invitation to be interviewed for the book project.

I’ve posted his interview in the happiness pages of this website. In it he talks about the Buddhist attitude toward happiness, whether the Buddha was a happy person or not, and his own happiness. Read the full transcript of the interview here.

What does Susan Sarandon think about happiness?

In happiness, what i'm reading on March 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm

I’ve been following what some celebrities have been saying about happiness of late, just to get an idea of what it means to them – or at least what they say it means through their media people.

The latest to come out with her thoughts on happiness is Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon, who claims that happiness keeps her young.

The 63-year-old she also takes care of her appearance by avoiding cigarettes.
“Don’t smoke,” she said. “It’s just so bad for your complexion. And I guess be as happy as possible. That really helps.”

Sarandon also revealed that she has a good relationship with her children, adding: “It’s nice to have something in common with your kids… All my kids really are curious and energetic and interested in things.” She concluded: “I hate to sound like the old hippy I am, but I think that even the bad stuff can turn into good stuff. Every day is a miracle, right?”

So nothing really new there, but an interesting perspective. And her attitude towards happiness fits into some of my major family of ideas about what happiness means to us today: Don’t smoke (investing in health), good skin (investing in appearance), energetic (physical stimulation), interesting things (mental stimulation), every day is a miracle (positivity).

Thanks to Digital Spy for the lead.

Rachel Weisz and happiness

In happiness, what i'm reading on February 20, 2010 at 4:18 pm

You might think that health is important part of happiness, but actress Rachel Weisz has declared quite the reverse, stating that “happiness is the secret to health”. She also said that a happy home life is the key to looking good.

In an interview recently she told a reporter: “I’m pretty healthy but I don’t have any fad diets or anything. I eat meat and drink alcohol, but everything in moderation,” she said. “I think happiness is the secret to health.”

Last week Weisz won Best Actress at the What’s On Stage theatre awards for her role in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse. That’s probably going to make her pretty happy as well!

So do you need to be happy to be healthy? I suppose general well-being does reduce stress in one’s life and being less up tight or axious is going to be good for our bodies. But is it essential, I wonder?

Do you need to be healthy to be happy then? Well yes, I think so, because an unhealthy body does lead to an unhealthy mind.

Perhaps we’ll just say for now that the two are definitely linked. I’ll ponder how linked they are though as I continue my research into the subject as part of my research project into the nature of happiness in modern society.

I found the story about Rachel Weisz and the quotes on Digital Spy.

Happiness and Hadrian

In happiness, Museums, Uncategorized on February 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Have you ever seen an advert and wonder if it was written specifically with you in mind? Two adverts on the London underground have caught my eye this week.

The first is an advert for Alexander McCall Smith’s new book Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, the latest in his No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. (I quite liked the first of these books, but I must say that I prefer the 44 Scotland Street series.) Anyway, it struck me as another example of people using happiness as a marketing tool. Advertisers do it again and again – it’s a clever idea to associate your brand with making people happy. Another recent example of this is the current BMW campaign Expressions of Joy.

The other advert to catch my eye is for Hot Chip’s new album One Life Stand. The album art features a giant head of the Roman emperor Hadrian, found at  Sargalassos in south-west Turkey. It was discovered in 2007 while we were working on the content development for an exhibition about Hadrian at the British Museum. We managed to secure a loan of the head to the BM for the display, less than a year from when it came out of the ground. It was pretty big news and I remember seeing this image over and over at the time, so it was a real bolt for me to see it again on a tube poster.

It’s funny what triggers the mind, eh?

Thought for the Day – Anne Atkins

In happiness, what i'm reading on December 9, 2009 at 10:55 am

Anne Atkins’ Thought for the Day yesterday morning reflected on the Young Foundation’s report into the psychological needs of people in Britain today – Sinking and Swimming: understanding Britain’s unmet needs, which dwells on the nature of depression.

We know a great deal more about depression than we used to. It’s an illness – some people get it and some people don’t. In many cases it’s treatable and there are tremendous success stories in how, as a society, we are dealing with it. Still, it’s now reckoned that 1 in 4 of us will experience depression of some sort during our lives. I find that a rather shocking statistic, and a very sobering one when I’m presently dwelling on what makes us happy, not what makes us unhappy.

Through my research into the nature of happiness and from talking to lots of people about what makes them tick it has become clear to me that, for many, the only way to truly understand what makes us happy is to to understand what makes us unhappy.

Anne Atkins thinks she knows where the root of this unhappiness lies in the very nature of society itself. She says:
“Depression is linked to two objective factors: relationships, and material well-being. As society becomes more fractured so we become more wretched. And the greater the disparity grows between rich and poor, the more dejected we become. The way to happiness would seem clear, if not easy. Better relationships and a fairer world.”While acknowledging that the theraputic treatments available for those who are depressed are valid, she seems to suggest that people just need to man up and get over their depression. That tears are good for us sometimes and, as I suggest here, the happier moments in life have to go hand in hand with the unhappier ones.  But I think she’s confusing unhappiness (a state of mind for many) with depression (an illness). She’s surely getting confused when she suggests that to get over depression, all you need do is find happiness. I’m no expert on the subject, but I’m pretty sure it’s more complicated that than.

She quotes Oscar Wilde: “Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground.” Depression is much more than sorrow, more than feeling down or simply being unhappy. It’s a chemical inbalance that affects an entire person. Unhappiness and depression are different beasts.

Of course, Thought for the Day is a moment of religious contemplation and yesterday’s speaker seems to suggest that looking forward to a time when there will no longer be any sorrow (I assume she means the end of time for Judeo-Christians) we will have something positive to focus on.

I really don’t agree with her conclusions.  You can read the full transcript of what she said on the BBC website.

Broadcasting House on happiness

In happiness on November 12, 2009 at 5:49 pm

I always delight in listening to Broadcasting House on Radio 4 – on the Sundays when I’m up at 9am. Or on the podcast.

This week, they are apparently going to be talking about happiness.

They say: “Massive wins on the lottery, or divine views of land with loamy soil for the self-sufficient, or a soul mate by the sea? We’ve a rare insight into a sixty year study in the USA which has been devoted to discover what makes us happy. The answer might shock.”

What can they mean? I’ll be tuning in at 9am on Sunday 15 November. BBC Radio 4: 92-95 FM.