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Striving for blissful in a lubberly time

We seem to be in a time period when rude and boorish public behavior is deemed politically correct. Maybe the word to be used here is not “correct,” but instead politically “acceptable.” Or is the word “endured?”

Whenever I find a word I do not hear very often and it seems to describe a behavior I’m witnessing, I have a strong interest in knowing more. Let’s take the word “boorish.” It’s defined as behavior that’s bad-mannered, coarse, ill-bred, thuggish or “lubberly.”

So what is “lubberly?” I thought. It’s a more interesting and less critical adjective than boorish. It refers to the behavior of an inexperienced person “lacking in seamanship, new at being at sea; unfamiliar with the ways of a sailor.”

I feel like I’m developing a word puzzle that’s going to help me better understand what’s going on in our country right now.

I suspect I’m overly sensitive to the presence of harsh and demeaning public rhetoric. Perhaps, because I grew up in a household where the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”) was always taped to the refrigerator and occasionally showed up in my mother’s carefully written script inside my school lunch box.

I grew up in a household where the phrase, “Do all the good you can to all the people you can as long as ever you can” was framed on the wall of my parent’s bedroom. They woke up to those words every morning — and as I look back on their lives, I believe their day-to-day behavior was dictated by that phrase. It also helped that my parents belonged to and went to church most Sundays. And I think it was relevant that my parents' parents came from Norway, which has just been identified as “the happiest country on Earth.”

In reading a recent article in USA Today that profiled the world’s happiest countries, I was reminded our U.S. Declaration of Independence found "the pursuit of happiness to be a fundamental right," but it is now Norway that leads the way in demonstrating a country’s worth of rightfully acquired collective happiness.

This Scandinavian nation of 5.6 million people ranked first among 155 countries rated for happiness in a 2017 United Nations Report issued by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The United States was one of the countries included in the ranking and is reportedly declining on the happiness scale; this year it came in at 14, largely a result of our “partisan” political landscape.

It may be important to know that the countries ranking at the top of the worldwide happiness scale all had “high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity and good governance,” according to one of the report’s authors, John Helliwell.

The happiest countries, in addition to Norway, were Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, The Netherlands and Canada. They were described as “blissful” countries.

“Blissful,” now there’s a delightful word, an adjective we all can strive toward, starting at the top of each new day.

— Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor. Reach her at Sharon@agefriendlyinnovators.org.