[ by Charles Cameron – the UN panel of happiness experts, human nature on and off the freeway, and royal rainmaking in Thailand and Tanzania ]
Seeings as how the Kingdom of Bhutan just convened a UN forum on the topic of Happiness and Well-being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm, I thought it might be interesting to compare the faces in reports of a recent, controversial congressional panel on contraceptive issues with those of the folks on the happiness panel:
And to be frank, neither panel looked particularly cheerful. I thought it might be nice to get away from all that seriousness, so I featured the Dalai Lama’s often playful eyes as an inset…
Seriously: is happiness something we should figure out in committee?
To be fair, though, they did have some decent guest speakers — Joan Halifax for one. My guess is, some people just bring their happiness with them.
And while I have the Dalai Lama in mind and in a conveniently copiable graphic, I thought I’d post a second, quick item — this one also having to do with happiness, I suppose, and raising the question of what human nature is.
When you’re stuck on the San Diego Freeway on the way back from work, you may not feel as “one with nature” as you do when you’re out for an evening walk on the beach in Malibu. But are the ribbons of the Interstate system really that different from the veining of a leaf?
I suspect that question might bring some quiet laughter to the Dalai Lama’s eyes…
Hat-tip: I have Andrea Lobel of Concordia U to thank for this second pair of images, which she very kindly sent me knowing of my delight in such pairings.
Time for one more?
Given my strong interest in ritual, you won’t be surprised to learn that royal rainmaking is of interest to me.
The insignia on the left is that of the Thai Bureau of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation, founded by Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who holds European patents on several of his methods:
According to the notes attached to this video:
Among the best-known and most successful of His Majesty’s water provision projects has been the Royal Rainmaking programme. He began to study how clouds might be seeded to produce rain. In 1969 he carried out preliminary tests at Khao Yai National Park using a Cessna 180 and dry ice. In August 1969, he moved to Hua Hin and used two aircraft in a variety of weather conditions to determine what worked best. Initially, he financed the research with his own funds but in 1970, he sought temporary funding for a “Rainmaking Project” from the government. With it, he established the Royal Rainmaking Research and Development Institute. Based on it, he has spent succeeding years refining his techniques to accord with varying cloud conditions and to suit differing climatological and geographic areas, enjoying considerable success throughout Thailand.
On the right is the encampment for the mapolyo a mbula or ancestral offerings for rain of the Ihanzu of Tanzania.
Todd Sanders, in his book Beyond Bodies: Rainmaking and Sense Making in Tanzania, writes:
Because the Ihanzu have long depended on the rain for their very existence, it is not surprising that rainmaking is central, both conceptually and practically, to their everyday lives. They have two royal rainmakers – one male, the other female – whose job it is to ensure the rains arrive on time and fall properly each year. … Through varied rain rites carried out each year in the village of Kirumi, royal rainmakers regulate the annual movement from the dry ‘male’ season (kipasu) to the wet ‘female’ one (kitiku) and back again. These rites take various forms, as we shall see…
For a detailed account of the mapolyo a mbula rites and the legend that accompanies and explains the diagram above, see Sanders’ Reflections on Two Sticks: Gender, Sexuality and Rainmaking in Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines:
These rites take place only when the rains have utterly failed and it has been divined that the royal Anyampanda clan spirits have demanded such an offering. Offerings take place over two days, but the entire ritual sequence often lasts a month, sometimes longer. It is only the two Anyampanda royal leaders, and no one else, who can bring such rain offerings to fruition.
Enough, I’m done for now — I’m happy.