What is happiness to you?

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In the spirit of taking the steering wheel of life and living purposefully, I took a vacation day and drove to Los Angeles to visit this amazing installation. The temporary exhibit at MOCA Pacific Design Center featured the installation of this TED talk guy: Stefan Sagemeister. My friend Stephanie visited the exhibit a week before when she had a friend in town and recommended it, and I didn’t waste much time deciding whether to go or not.

What is happiness to you?

Anticipating the inspiration, I brought along my newish (and sadly neglected) DSLR to take some decent photos and will share some below.

The Happy Show is a beautiful presentation created by graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister in his own attempt to discover true happiness and the meaning of it all during his 10 year exploration of happiness. Combine bold design, great typography and life exploration and I’m there. The only thing that could’ve gotten me there faster was free food :)

Immediately I was absorbed by the installation, which was housed in the small MOCA building adjacent to the Design Center. The chosen music swelled and eerily echoed throughout the space, and every corner of the exhibit pulled me in.

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Yes, almostliterally every corner. Experiencing this exhibit solo gave me decent insight into my own self and really made me feel alive.

There are a million pieces to talk about from this experience, but here are the things that brought the strongest reaction for me.

The gumball bar chart

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This highly participatory installation invited its visitors to take a gumball out of the machine by rating their own level of happiness. It’s easy to see that the 8, 9 and 10 range is a lot more depleted than the others. This led me to ask:

  1. Are people who go to museums and art exhibits happier people in general?
  2. Are sadder people not willing to admit publicly that they don’t fall into the 8, 9 or 10 category? or
  3. Are most people really that happy?

The Video

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There were several videos being projected onto various walls, but The Happy Show itself was featured with headphones inviting you to sit down and listen. Here I learned that Stefan Sagmeister did intensive meditation at a place where they weren’t allowed to talk for a week, and he basically found it cool (but also kind of painful), and admitted he didn’t believe any of the people who said that meditation brought them untouchable levels of happiness.

During another part, he discussed a time where he realized he was feeling pure, total happiness: taking a moped or automatic bike of sorts onto a trail and filling his iPod with songs that he liked a good deal but didn’t know too well.

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"Actually doing the things I set out to do increases my overall level of satisfaction. Seek discomfort."

Depending on who you ask, the “What is happiness” question can be answered easily and simply by one person yet can leave another person speechless. I'm often curious what people think about true happiness, or if anyone really knows.

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What are times in your life where you remember experiencing pure and complete happiness?