I am working through the new book of that fine sociologist, Arlie Hochschild. In The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times she looks at the many ways we have turned to the market for aspects of personal life that we used to rely on "the village" for.
In the chapter on internet dating that opens the book, she makes this helpful observation: internet dating clients had such trouble finding a mate because "they were preparing to be consumers, not creators, of love."
One fruitful insight of our "Happy Society" class is that the simple act of performing acts of kindness for others makes one feel happier. And we notice that our friends, seeing our example, are more likely to do the same.
I find that students have another, even more unexpected insight. They have clear feelings about whether society is happy and kind, or unhappy and cold. But until doing this class exercise, they had just never thought about themselves as the creators of the moral tone of society.
Creating love, like creating kindness, is hard and risky. But it is also empowering. And, of course, good.