Gregg Easterbrook's book, The Progress Paradox, has this interesting thesis that Americans never had it so good and they still aren't happy. He looks at various indicators of well being and makes a compelling case that indeed there has been phenomenal advances on all indicators. So why don't people feel happy?
He says there are two reasons: the revolution of satisfied expectations, and collapse anxiety.
What he means by the "revolution of satisfied expectations" is that it is hard to have anything to look forward to when you already have everything. What do you buy the person for Christmas who doesn't need anything? And when we have no hopes, no dreams, nothing to work for, look forward to, we get depressed. We are glutted with stuff. Who needs more? The old Peggy Lee song, "Is That All There Is" perhaps says it all.
Collapse anxiety is when we have everything but we live in fear that it can't last and we will loose it. Freudians call it the "success neurosis". People who are successful are waiting for the other shoe to drop. They know it's only a matter of time before something happens to ruin a good thing.
Both sources of unhappiness are based on a dependence on material things to make us happy. It is a belief that stuff will make us happy, and if that doesn't work it's because we don't have enough stuff, or the right stuff, etc.
As we have been told "Money can't buy you love". There is plenty of evidence that wealthy people are not any happier than people of moderate means. I don't mean to say that money has no bearing on happiness, I only mean to say that after a moderate amount of wealth so that we can meet our needs, more money does nothing for us.
I love the saying "Money can't buy you love, but it sure helps."
The spiritual traditions have all pointed out that money not only does not bring happiness but in fact can be the root of unhappiness.
So I am reminded of my friend, Al, who when I asked him, "Al, what is the measure of a person?", Al said simply, "Kindness, Dave, kindness."
Do you suppose that kindness can bring us happiness? Could it be as simple as that?