We’re fortunate to have made it through the crises of 2020, and as we face the new year, we now find ourselves with a renewed pursuit of genuine health, happiness, and inner peace. With this being our first Magnifissance issue of 2021, we decided there was never a better time to focus on the essence of happiness in all its forms, especially life’s small joys.
For our entire lives, most of us have found happiness through spending time with friends, travelling to new places, going out to eat, shop, or going to the theatre. With all of these taken away or restricted, we’ve had to look inside ourselves to find the essence of what makes us happy. We’ve had to discover new pleasure in life’s small joys and new hope in our broader understanding of the world.
To begin our exploration of happiness, what better place to start than a country that measures its success not by the economic scale of gross national product but by gross national happiness instead? In this issue, we took a virtual tour of Bhutan to examine what makes the people there so happy.
In the ancient traditions of both Buddhism and Taoism, the true happiness of higher realms is expressed with the Chinese word wuwei, which literally translates as “being free.” There are layers of meaning to this word, as there are layers of meaning to freedom itself, encompassing everything from economic freedom, to free movement, assembly, speech, and perhaps most fundamentally, freedom of belief.
For people living in communism China today, nearly every facet of freedom is oppressed. This issue’s cover story features an interview with Jennifer Zeng, a writer and online personality who suffered inhuman persecution in China’s system of labour camps because of her persistence in practicing Falun Gong, a meditation and qigong practice based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance.
Her unjust imprisonment, however, didn’t eclipse her desire for freedom. She never lost the sense of gratitude and joy she found through her faith and through understanding the meaning of life.
She eventually escaped China and built a new life in the free world. Living in the United States now, she says she has a deep appreciation for freedom and democracy.
Recently, however, she feels that freedom has come under attack. Jennifer received international attention when she translated a speech made by a top Chinese professor about the links between the Chinese Communist Party and U.S. officials, including Joe Biden. The video went viral but was removed by YouTube.
She says that the censorship of her social media accounts reminds her of the communist society she so narrowly escaped. Reading the story of her pursuit of freedom with faith and courage gives me hope that we can persevere through these difficult times to a better future and a time of renewed joy.
During this bleak time, it might seem more difficult than ever for us to find inner happiness and celebrate life’s small joys, but there are small improvements we can make in our lives and things within our control that we can change. This idea is summarized in Japanese culture with the word kaizen, and in this issue we interview author Sarah Harvey, who just published an excellent book on the topic.
We also have features on the healing power of handmade wood combs, healthy festive recipes inspired by ancient cookbooks, the sophisticated taste of hot cocoa made from cacao trees dating back over 5,000 years, traditional Japanese clay pots.
These, and a host of other insightful articles, come together for an issue dedicated to happiness in all its forms, with guidance for discovering life’s small joys and a deeper sense of well-being.