When digging into the theme of happiness and how it is gained, talking to hippies is probably a good place to start. I decided to use a recent visit to Envision—a transformational festival set in the Costa Rican jungle—where themes of community, sharing, and positivity towards mother earth reign supreme—to do a little case study in the good life. Breaking down my anthropologic study to a level that even children could understand—and in one case, actually interviewing a small child—I asked one simple question to the people I encountered: What is the key to happiness?
Amisha, London, England:
THUMP: What's the key to happiness?
Amisha: I feel like the key to happiness is to fall in love with yourself, to be able live in a place that is fully authentic, and to have the courage to be who you are. When you're coming at the world from that place, you're working with the world and you're showing up in a way that's true and real. As different things happen, affecting your happiness, you're able to see them either as things that help you to grow and help you to clear things, or things that fill you with joy.
Dan, Austin, Texas
I just quit my job as Director of Sales at Farmhouse Delivery in Austin, Texas, and I turned 30 on Thursday. I was inventing a sales team from scratch, and all of my salespeople were quitting, because it's really hard to knock on doors. I wanted to do something I was more passionate about, and I'm currently trying to figure out what that passion is.
I think the happiest I have ever been is when I've stopped thinking about myself, and started thinking about those around me. That's family, that's friends, that's anybody that's outside of myself. The more I feel like I'm ok, and everything I'm doing is great, the more I can focus on other people. I stop worrying about my happiness if I can make other people happy, and that makes me happy. I'm searching for that, and it's been awhile since I've felt that. That's why I felt like I needed to make a drastic change. Coming [to Costa Rica] is a big part of it.
I think the key to happiness is having acceptance for where you are. And also, at the same time, to keep dreaming. But I think it's impossible to be happy if you're discontent with where you are in the moment. In the moment, if you can appreciate where you are, it can help you to shape where you want to be. But happiness comes from accepting that.
THUMP: I figured I'd catch you while you're painting. So what's the key to happiness in your opinion?
Jakob: Fuck, it's such a hard question. My English isn't very good.
Don't think about it too much.
To be in touch with nature, and try to make the right decisions, maybe.
What do you find in nature that makes you happy?
Honey, Costa Rica
Happiness isn't so important; happiness comes and goes. Sometimes you get [happiness], sometimes you get sadness and suffering. You get to do the whole thing in life, so happiness really isn't so much the key.
I think it's interesting that here at Envision, we're still yearning, still getting ready to do the same thing [people my age] have been doing for such a long time. I would like to see people move further along instead of getting ready to do all these things they're planning to do. It seems to me that we're running behind. My husband and I have been doing it for 50 years—starting communes, homeschooling our kids, growing our food. Right now we design electrical systems for villages, but I don't see the villages coming together. I see us still coming together to talk about how someday we might, you know?
It feels like my generation is handing off the baton, and though there are lots of hippies, lots of alternative people, lots of people to talk about it, I don't feel it happening so much.
Josh, Brandon, and Lauren, Toronto, Ontario
Brandon: I think it's your relationship with yourself, first and foremost. Because you have to have that in order to build relationships with others. And then [you need] something that you're passionate about. Whether it's music, art, there's gotta be something that keeps you going throughout your life to get you up every day and make you want to kick ass.
Josh: Having community and like-minded to support you—people that can help share and can help love. Community is definitely the key to happiness.
Lauren: I think the key to happiness is non-attachment to the things that come at you in your life, so that you allow the different emotions and feelings to flow through you, as opposed to trying to hold on to one specific experience, and always reaching to get back to a certain state.
THUMP: What is the key to happiness?
Rupert: Love—that's it.
Angela Del Sol, Colombia-via-Brooklyn
Angela: So what makes us happy? I think it's community. Because we're like sparkles. One sparkle doesn't shine as bright as it does with a lot of sparkles. So we're just like sparkles. We need to come together so we shine.
But also community, purpose, and feeling engaged. Here at Envision, you're not just aimlessly living; you're connected. I think that for moving forward, it made me realize who I am, and what really makes me happy. You get so lost in all the things that you should be doing, or where you should be dancing, or what you should do...but sometimes you don't have to do any of that. Just dance!
Paul and Gustavo, Costa Rica
Gustavo: The key to a happy and healthy world would be where consumers have access to clean food, and farmers have clean environments—non-toxic environments—for working. And where opportunities are spread across [society]. So instead of one farmer with 1000 trees, I want to see 100 farmers with 10 trees.
Paul: You don't have to make a great effort to have happiness; it is just in your backyard, in your small land. Everybody has the opportunity to make their own decisions about what to do, grow, and eat.
Eamon, San Francisco
The key to happiness is a bit of a challenging question, because it presupposes that happiness is a goal. And I think having happiness as a goal makes it difficult to experience and be settled in the sensation of joy. When you're reaching for something all the time—like looking for the way, looking for the access point—you get attached to that. At the same time, I would say that the key to everything is gratitude, and I think that is much more valuable than happiness. Because if you are happy, it will pass. No feeling is final. But if you're grateful, you can elevate that moment.
Matt, Envision Co-Founder
I think the key to happiness is reestablishing the human relationship [to itself] as a species on this planet, and a part of a greater ecosystem. Not just with other humans, but also with all of the animals and nature.
Tasha, Anit, and Lil' Mikayla, Costa Rica
Tasha: I think the key to happiness is doing what makes you happy, whatever you want to do.
Anit: We're both from different places, and we're from all over, and we have family all over. We like to travel, so [Mikayla] has seen the world, and we're teaching her to do what's good for her.
What about you, Mikayla, what makes you happy?
Mikayla: I don't know.
Come on, something must make you happy...
I think it might be food.
What's your favorite food?
I don't know.
David Garber is happily contemplating his favorite food on Twitter.