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The Changing Pursuit of Happiness


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Over the last seventy years, what makes people happy and fulfilled and what motivates us for good or ill has been changing, worldwide, shifting from the “materialist” values to the “postmaterialist” values of people who have grown up with their survival needs taken for granted, marking a shift in world thinking that may have everything to do with saving our planet and feeding our poor.

This article first appeared in our premiere issue, Fall 1998. Global trends offer surprising hope for the future. On January 1, 2001, if all goes well, a monument-sized clock will take its first tick and continue on for the next ten thousand years, twice the current age of Stonehenge. It’s an audacious project by any measure, designed to change the way we think about the nature of time and our responsibility to our planet, and it has captured the attention of some of the finest minds around. The clock’s inventor, Danny Hillis, is a visionary and genius who in his twenties created the world’s fastest supercomputer to predict global climatic changes and visualize galaxies colliding. What’s fascinating about this project, however, is that it’s not more high-tech wizardry. The materials are stone and steel and the technology is designed to be transparent, so that anyone walking into it at any time can figure out how it works. That’s critical because, to keep it ticking, people are going to have to gather annually to wind it. Built into the clock is a library chamber designed to fill up as the giant clock …

Stephen Kiesling is a former Olympic rower, cocreator of the Nike Cross Training System, and editor at large of Spirituality & Health. A 35th anniversary edition of The Shell Game: Reflections on Rowing and the Pursuit of Excellence has just been published.

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