I just spent an hour working on a beautiful post on country music, positive psychology, and New Yorkers, and alas, Blogger just ate it without a trace. So I’m afraid you’re going to have to connect the dots yourself.
The Economist on country music.
Once they pass a certain age, most Americans stop worrying about being cool. This is often when they start (or go back to) listening to country music. “It’s not about sexual innuendo or bling, but the problems and experiences of ordinary people: love, loss, family life, having a good time and a sense of humour,” says Joe Galante, head of Sony BMG’s country-music division.
Some say country music itself is a better balm for broken hearts. Whereas anguished Manhattanites pay hundreds of dollars an hour to lie on a couch and talk about themselves, country fans put on a Wynonna Judd CD and hear someone sing about problems that sound awfully like theirs. Say you have endured a family break-up or think you might be addicted to food: Wynonna has been there, feels your pain and articulates it far more tunefully than you ever could. As another country singer, Dierks Bentley, once put it: “Country music has always been the best shrink that 15 bucks can buy.”
I might not have a million dollars in the bank
But I’ve got food on my table and gas in my tank
I might not have designer sheets on a king size bed
But I lay down at night with a roof over my head
Yeah, I’ve got friends that love me
A big blue sky above me
And your two arms around me baby every night
Isn’t that everything
I don’t need anything
It’s only the simple things I believe
That matter most in life
I’m more than satisfied
All that I have is all I need
Isn’t that everything
Like most New Yorkers I know, I can’t imagine living in most other places in the world. My troubles would surely be aggravated, rather than solved, by relocating to Branson. But reading the literature of happiness studies, I can’t help but wonder whether we aren’t all in the grip of some strange false consciousness. From the point of view of the happiness literature, New Yorkers seem to have been mysteriously seduced into a way of life that conspires, in almost every way, against the most basic level of contentment.
Darrin McMahon, the author of Happiness: A History, shrewdly points out that the Big Apple is a perfect moniker for the city: “The apple is the cause of the fall of human happiness,” he says. “It’s the symbol of that desire for something more. Even though paradise was paradise, they were still restless.”
Which is where the subtle thesis of Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice comes in. He argues, with terrible persuasiveness, that a superabundance of options is not a blessing but a certain recipe for madness. Nowhere do people have more choices than in New York. “New Yorkers should probably be the most unhappy people on the planet,” says Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore. “On every block, there’s a lifetime’s worth of opportunities. And if I’m right, either they won’t be able to choose or they will choose, and they’ll be convinced they chose badly.”
Chris’s Song Picks
Whiskey Lullaby: Brad Paisley/Allison Krauss
Hauntingly beautiful. And yes, that is Ricky Schroeder in the video.
Three Wooden Crosses: Randy Travis
Faith, redemption, and fate.