Sweet Critique: Project Happiness

A couple of months ago I was sent the documentary Project Happiness to review.  I’ll be honest:  I was concerned.  Sure, it sounds like a great thing, but then again, happiness always does.  The problem comes when we try to tell each other what brings happiness to us, and assume that’s what they need as well.  Plus, this type of discussion can get really heated if religion becomes a factor.

Well, I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised.  Project Happiness far exceeded any expectations I had for it, and I really can’t quite put into words why you should see this.  It’s just a feeling, a connection, something that honestly can’t be described.  Is that vague enough for you?

What is Project Happiness?

This is a documentary that follows high school seniors from three different schools: one in CA, one in Nigeria, and one in India.  They are on a quest to find what makes people happy.  Through the magic of the internet, the students began to interact with each other, as well as their teachers, and we get to see the process.

The students visit with George Lucas, Richard Gere, a neuroscientist, individuals at the Tibetan Children’s Village, as well as many others.  Their final destination is a meeting with the Dalai Lama.  I feel I must add something here, something that probably wasn’t done intentionally:  The students asked for an interview with the Dalai Lama and they got it.  Fear of failure or feelings of inadequacy should never stop you from pursuing something you’re passionate about; you never know what out there in the works for you.  I should take my own advice…

Here are a few brief snippets of what I picked up on during the interviews:

  • George Lucas – There is a difference between pleasure and joy.  Pleasure is fleeting, instantaneous.  Joy is lasting.
  • Richard Gere – We’re all striving to move towards happiness and away from suffering.  If you look at people and their actions from this point of view, you can begin to understand them more fully.
  • Nigeria – We’re all connected, we’re all constantly searching for companionship, and we all need love.
  • Dalai Lama – Someone who is angry and full of hatred is not mentally free.  Mental freedom allows us to use our suffering as a way to make ourselves and others better.  And more importantly:  he doesn’t know the answer to finding happiness.  It’s different for all of us.

The film ends with the realization that while there are guides to happiness {human relationships and sacrifice for and service to others}, it is a moment to moment thing for each of us.  It is molded by our thoughts, which are very powerful, meaning we control our own happiness.

I love this quote, by Howard Thurman, found at the end of the film:

Don’t ask what the world needs.

Ask what makes you come alive,

And go do it.

Because what the world needs

Is people who have

Come alive.

Why this is Pertinent to All of Us-Homeschoolers or Not

First, there’s the obvious connection:  there are curriculum resources and programs to go along with the documentary.  There are tons of ways to use this to further the experience:  a handbook, a handbook study guide, a film study guide, a 15 minutes a day series, and a Jump Start series for educators.

Project Happiness HandbookThe study guides and 15 minutes series are available for free to everyone, and the Jump Start series is available to educators for free {as a homeschooler, you must be able to provide proof which varies from state to state}.  I’ve had the opportunity to review all of the resources and I must say, the handbook itself is my favorite; there is great information in there and it really can be personalized.  It’s got tons of open-ended information so it guides you, instead of telling you.

Even without considering the educational materials, this is still pertinent to every single one of us.  It really makes you sit and think about your life, whether you’re living it to the fullest, and how you interact with others.  The great thing, though, is it does this in a gentle manner, without forcing anything on you.

I think all of us strive to teach our children {and ourselves, for that matter} character, values, compassion, etc.  I know many homeschoolers have that as an actual part of their curriculum.  I think the materials provided, along with the film, can greatly assist anyone in doing just that.  I highly recommend it!

And YAY!  The folks at Project Happiness are giving away a DVD to one of you!!

To enter, use the Rafflecopter form below!