Your year really begins when you move to a new home, start school, quit a job, have a big breakup, have a baby, quit a bad habit, start a new project, or whatever else. Those are the real memorable turning points — where one day is very different than the day before. Those are the meaningful markers of time. Those are your real new years.
To force these celebrations on universal dates disconnects them from the meaning they’re supposed to celebrate.
Happy New Year people, whenever it is you may be celebrating.
David Cain: You have employees everywhere, but the United States is probably your most profitable venture so far. What’s been your secret to success in the US?
The Man: I love America. As much as I dislike the phrase “Perfect Storm”, it’s like all the right factors came together in one place. The big one is the hyper-normal level of consumerism and its relationship to self-esteem. I know you did a piece on that. [Here – Ed.] People in the US, more than anywhere else, respond to personal inadequacy by buying stuff or trying to get in a better position to buy stuff later. This is great, because buying stuff eventually creates disappointment, which creates more buying.
I also love its strange breed of future-focused happiness. Almost every young American thinks he’ll be rich at some point. Later is when life will be great. No matter what their salary, very few people think they make quite enough money now. So they’re willing to put up with “just ok” or even “not quite ok” for many years.
There is also, in the working world, this wonderful shaming of any hint of Bohemianism. Can you imagine an American taking a two-hour lunch, with wine, like they do in Europe? Nobody does it, nobody. Work is a virtue, no matter what the work is or what they produce. They are grateful for two weeks of vacation a year. Two weeks out of fifty-two! The culture does most of the work for me. Some people don’t even take those two weeks, because they’re afraid their colleagues will think they aren’t serious about working at all. Stopping to smell flowers is suspicious behavior there, unless you’re retired.
Despite that, there is a permeating sense of entitlement here, as if things should not only be good all the time, it should be easy to keep them good. Do you think the citizens of the world’s richest nation actually want fairness across the board? They think they’re getting the short end of the stick, can you believe that? If they only knew.
We tell stories that reveal that there are, in fact, a surprising number of reasons to feel cheerful. Many of these reasons come in the form of smart, proven, replicable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. We’re here to tell you about some of them. Through sharp reporting, our stories balance a sense of healthy optimism with journalistic rigor, and find cause for hope. We are part magazine, part therapy session, part blueprint for a better world.
Reasons to be Cheerful was founded by artist and musician David Byrne, who believes in the power of approaching the world with curiosity—in art, in music, in collaboration and in life. Under the banner of Byrne’s Arbutus Foundation, Reasons to be Cheerful embodies this sensibility, applying it now to the future of our world. Through stories of hope, rooted in evidence, Reasons to be Cheerful aims to inspire us all to be curious about how the world can be better, and to ask ourselves how we can be part of that change.
David Byrne to the rescue again. “Same as it ever was.”