Monday, November 19, 2007

From Crisis to Hope

This past weekend I was the official photographer for the annual Fall conference of The Parkland Institute, a progressive thinktank located on the University of Alberta campus. The theme of this year's conference was "From Crisis to Hope: Building Sustainable Communities."

By "sustainable communities," what was meant was the kind of society we as people will be living in, in a post-carbon world once the oil sands are depleted, once other non-renewable resources are dwindling, once the stress of our lifestyles take their full toll on the world around us.

In general, the tone of the conference was very positive and included a lot of interactive discussions. One of the speakers, Mark Anielski (author of the book The Economy of Happiness), spoke about what causes true happiness -- or, joy as he later specified, which is a more enduring state than happiness, which can be fleeting. The conclusion made was that there was more satisfaction to be found in spiritual things than material. "Spiritual" included being close to family and friends, enjoying nature, having an adequate amount of leisure time, and, yes, it was indeed mentioned: one's relationship with G-d (although no specific religion was discussed). People need to have enough money to be able to sufficiently care for their needs, but people with huge bags of dough are not necessarily happier.

To me, this is a very important topic, but hardly revolutionary. After all, people who already have a close relationship with the Almighty, or G-d, or the Creator, or whatver we feel comfortable calling Him, know this stuff well. Anielski was preaching to the converted (literally) in my case. How many people will now go home and start to explore their own spirituality as a result? I can only hope and pray that many will.

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