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Post-apocalyptic utopia 

There's a glimmer of something good behind those economic storm clouds.

In 2008 we learned from studies that putting boiled water in plastic bottles speeds up the release of bisphenol A, that Canada is the world’s fourth largest source of spam and that Tasers might not be as safe as we think. My pitch for our most important study of the year? It’s the one that gave us this news: Happiness is contagious.Tee hee.According to research published last month in the British Medical Journal, a 20-year study says if you come into contact with happy people you, in turn, will be happy. Friends can make you nine percent more happy. Spouses and siblings? Fifteen percent. I couldn’t be happier. I mean, I’ve been looking for a way out of this economic-crisis melancholy for going on two months now.Best I can tell, there are three stages to coming to terms with global fiscal cataclysm.The first is blissful ignorance (oh how I pine for those heady days, before I suffered mid-lunch panic attacks about which domino in the world financial game was going to tumble next and take my livelihood with it, when I used to get coffee---cappuccino!---in the outside world and when I never worried about my dad’s ability to retire).Stage two in the emotional processing of the unfolding economic meltdown (meltdown! Jesus! Do we have to keep calling it a meltdown? That doomspeak is surely part of the problem!) is the aforementioned melancholy (see the parenthetical note above for a brief description, except add night sweats and headaches).Stage three? Resignation. And that’s where I hope I’m headed. It’s where we’re all headed, really. I mean, you can’t stay mad at the economy forever. Or, maybe you can, but then you’d be Karl Marx, scribbling away for a decade in the British Library and never getting a haircut.But even Marx was just looking for a workable solution. A happy solution, it might be argued. And that brings me to a point about stage three. Resignation can go two ways: happy or sad. Either you’re out in the backyard digging your own grave as the creditors roll up the street or you’re back to blissful ignorance, but this time on a whole new level.I imagine this state of happy resignation is like the aftermath of a near-death experience. Once you almost get smacked by a train or devoured by a giant tuna off the coast of Cape Cod, you still have to go back to buying groceries and getting to doctor’s appointments on time. But somehow, you do all the same things with a zeal you never had. It’s like: tomorrow at 2pm for my Pap smear? Darn-tootin’ I’ll be there and thanks for the reminder call! Whoo! I’m on it! Love it! Lovin’ the Pap smear!And maybe it’s that way with the global crisis---once we actually get through this near-death experience, we’ll come out on the other side better for it. And I choose my words carefully there---it’s near-death, not death complete. Because no matter what, we---humans---are still going to be here. It might mean the death of the auto industry, the death of the housing market, the death of $8,000 handbags and of core funding for the arts and the possibility for shorter wait-times in hospitals. But it won’t be death really. We’ll still be here.Am I being naive? Maybe I’m a string quartet on the Titanic---playing a swan song as our lives, as we are accustomed to living them, sink.But the way I figure it, we don’t have a lot of choice. Governments are sweating out the details of bailouts and stimulus packages but I don’t feel like I have a lot of say in those matters. Do you?So far, only one thing has made me prick up my ears.A farmer friend recently answered a simple question---“How are you?”---with unexpected significance.“You know,” he said, “I am just so tickled pink to be alive right now.”I stared.“Our economic ruin,” he said, “could be so monumental, it might just be the thing that kicks us off to a new way of looking at the world and living in it with one another.”I continued to stare, but now I was smiling.“It feels,” he said, like after decades and decades something is finally starting to happen.”I smiled. He left. And I went on my way.You know what? Those British researchers just might be on to something.

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