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By Scott Sullivan
Start Like Finnish
Learning Finland is the World’s Happiest Country has plunged me into depression. By the time I pay for a 12-hour flight that will cheer me up, I’ll be too broke for a sauna, then to jump in a frozen lake.
The good news is Danielle Braff of the Tribune News Service says I can copy the Finns and live my best life right here. How? Heard of paint by numbers? Braff has blessed us with the writing equivalent: one of those “Tips for a Better Lifestyle” stories.
Here’s how they work: Assuming readers have short attention spans, Braff breaks down her counsel into easy-to-digest blurbs under snappy heads. “Experience Nature,” “Chat Over Coffee” and “Get Some Heat” are things happy Finns do that we can too.
Who knew in Michigan we can go outside, hike, ski, snowshoe, bike and swim to commune with nature? So what if mosquitoes, tripping over roots, freezing, drowning and trying to bike across Blue Star bridge have been issues?
On to “Chat Over Coffee.” The Finns, Braff says, brew coffee in 10-cup batches and share drinks with others. I tried this but after nine cups grew anxious that all this sharing was spreading germs.
Finns have universal healthcare. Here we must pay for our own. Not only is it not cheap, it isn’t worth it.
First I called my primary-care physician. “I’m anxious and dying,” I said.
“You are anxious because you are dying?” the receptionist asked.
“Both, separately.”
“Let me check with your doctor.” Pause. “He says he is on vacation.”
“Till when?”
“Will my insurance pay for it?”
“If at all, it will be a fraction.”
On to “Get Some Heat,” which means something different in America than in Finland. Here it means pack a gun to defend yourself. Better, be proactive.
“I didn’t mean to unload on that school full of children, but God said I’d go to hell if I didn’t,” say assailants asserting their Second Amendment rights. Better to kill than be killed, I say.
“Heat” to the Finnish means chill out and take a sauna, then jump in a cold lake. Braff doesn’t mention saunas cause one of four burns that result in Finns being hospitalized. Care is universal but it hurts to get torched regardless.
Saunas can make men impotent and dehydrate bodies. In the 2010 World Sauna Championships a finalist died from extreme heat exposure. Polar plunges, if you get that far, can cause heart attacks.
I was sad to learn being so happy had consequences. Next to Finland on the U.N.’s World Happiness List came Norway, Denmark and Iceland.
Iceland? Who knew it ranked No. 2 the world for per-capita antidepressant use? First is the U.S., which ranked 18th for happiness among 156 lands surveyed.
Last were Burundi, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Tanzania, all near the equator. Some like it hot, but more are happy with stable governments and cold cash.
Based on that, what explains Ingmar Bergman movies? Want to cure feeling unduly happy? Watch films by the late Swedish master such as “Torment,” “Prison” or “Cries and Whispers.”
Humorist Garrison Keillor made fun of Nordic reticence for years before getting booted off public radio for not being reticent enough with a woman staff member.
What to make of such Nordic happiness? Was the U.N. criteria to assess it made up by Nords? Are Nords nerds? Past a certain point I don’t want to think.
This inspired me to mull what to put on my grave. My last chance to launch a zinger without rebuttal. Or at least hearing it, leaving backlash to my survivors. Why not bestow the inheritance they deserve?
Even bone-yard buzzards have short attention spans, so in the spirit of Braff’s write-by-numbers I’d keep it snappy. “There goes the neighborhood” Rodney Dangerfield’s tombstone says. Others now dead have inscribed or prescribed curses on their neighbors or shared wise axioms like “S___ happens” …
I can’t wait.