I am currently reading Alexandra Stoddard's latest book "You Are Your Choices". I always enjoy reading her books.
The focus of the book is on living "The Good Life" by adhering to the principles of Aristotle's Golden Mean, which holds that if we live by truth and goodness we will elevate our lives to beauty. Ms. Stoddard drives home the idea that we must define our own truth and then stick to it. Out of this truth will come what is good for each person, thereby allowing us to live in beauty. Once I was able to move past the idea of beauty only as a physical attribute this made sense. I would say that beauty is more a stand-in for happiness. The bottom line of what she is saying is that if you define what is true for you and live by it your life will be good and, therefore, happy. Simple idea when you get right down to it. One quote, from Joseph Campbell, that I found particularly enlightening is "The world is full of people that have stopped listening to themselves or have listened only to their neighbors to learn what they ought to do, how they ought to behave, and what the values are that they should be living for." Interestingly enough right before I picked up "You Are Your Choices" I read a National Geographic article that Sallie at A Gracious Home had referenced about Orlando and the "sameness" one finds from one place to another in the US. I highly recommend reading the article. It will definitely make you think about how too many of us have stopped thinking and started accepting the "this development is good for the economy" line to the detriment of our society. Another interesting article I found that further supports this and ties into both the Orlando article and Ms. Stoddard's book comes from Bill McKibben. He argues in his Mother Jones article "Reversal of Fortune" that at some point we realize diminished return on continued growth and expansion of production. Relating his ideas to those from "You Are Your Choices" I would say that we have lost the truth of community as necessary to our being, causing a decrease in "goodness", which has resulted in our communities becoming ugly both in outward physical appearance and function. Never mind the fact that study after study shows that people are not appreciably happier today than they were before the post-war boom in production.