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What Is Your Symbol of Happiness?
We could all use a little more happiness in our lives. But sometimes the universe forgets it's supposed to be our accomplice, and dumps hail storms AND droughts AND babies smashing cameras AND immediately-spilled iced lattes into our laps all at once. Anyone looking for an infusion of happiness would do well to visit Stefan Sagmeister's The Happy Show. If you happen to be in Philadelphia you can view the show at the Institute of Contemporary Art this week before it closes. Otherwise, the evidence of the show is archived for all to take joy in -- thank you Internet! -- on Flickr, Tumblr, and Twitter. Sagmeister's show features the graphic designer's own rules to live by, based on his ten-year exploration of the topic of happiness, like so:
But the Happy Show also, crucially, invites participants to weigh in by drawing their symbols of happiness (like the heart-cloud above), and answering questions about what makes them happy. For example: What is the happiest word? As the ICA blog points out, the answers often create a kind of poetry:
"What Did You Do to Make Someone Else Unexpectedly Happy?
I took care of a dog last summer. I emailed pictures of her every day to her owners with funny captions.
I admit, these questions, even the idea of the symbols of happiness, seem anodyne until I actually try to answer them in my own head. What IS the happiest word? What WOULD I do with a year off? I can rattle off lots of foods that make me happy (probably too many), but what is my symbol of happiness? It seems like we should know what makes us happy, or how to make others happy. But as the need for such an exhibit, and the outpouring of response they've received via social media, proves, these are not questions we as a culture find easy to answer.
The exhibit doesn't profess to be able to provide happiness either. But it does provide insight, and most meaningfully, a way to connect. Which, when you think about it, might just be a road to happiness in itself.
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