July 24, 2006

Your piece on happiness informed me that Branson, Missouri, is the happiest place to be [“Some Dark Thoughts on Happiness,” by Jennifer Senior, July 17]. I can tell you that I have been to Branson, and one thing that makes me very happy as a New Yorker is that I am in New York and not in Branson.
—Stan Smith, Manhattan

I certainly believe that there are many happy people in New York. I consider myself one of them. However, I do believe that greed is why so many New Yorkers are unhappy. I’ve encountered countless people who’ve forfeited all interests, curiosities, and intellectual expansion that don’t revolve around making more money.
—Michael Scalisi, Manhattan

The advent of positive psychology is a definite boon for the advancement of knowledge. Still, as your report implies, happiness is not quite the same as fulfillment, and measuring the latter no doubt requires a distinct set of instruments. My guess is that we will one day be able to see unique brain-wave patterns in those who take great risks to achieve fulfillment (even if it means frequent disappointment), compared with those who avoid risk in order to experience mere comfort or happiness.
—David Allyn, Manhattan

Although I found Senior’s article entertaining and informative, I think she misunderstands what positive psychology is about. It is not about delusion, but about acceptance and positive self-regard. In my own efforts to take self-help out of the pathology paradigm, I teach my clients to incorporate into their daily lives emotional-fitness exercises I call emo-cises® to help them change their negative thinking patterns and to build their emotional muscles.
—Vivien Wolsk, Manhattan

This article was written by an atheist! Everyone knows there is no happiness apart from God. Any information gleaned from this story would be ludicrous.
—Christine Noskewicz, Hicksville, N.Y.

Prep for Prep
Though the tiesha Sargeant story resonated with me, there are a few discrepancies I’d like to address [“Nine Blocks From Home,” by Robert Kolker, July 17]. Kolker glosses over the discomfort of existing in two spheres. Going to a school like Brearley or Spence (I attended the latter as a Prep for Prep student in the eighties) is as much a burden as it is a privilege. Going to school in a rich world and going home to a poor one can engender feelings of alienation from both environments, and being held personally accountable for every controversial event in the African-American community proved especially trying. But that doesn’t necessarily make you seek out authenticity by dating thugs. The allure of the intelligent hoodlum is a powerful one, cultivated by media images of hip-hop entrepreneurs. And the proverbial bad boy is a draw for successful women of all backgrounds. I don’t think that, as the article implies, Tiesha made a foolish selection. As a member of the black Ivy community, I can tell you that educated black men with stable incomes are in woefully short supply.
—Imani A. Dawson, Manhattan

The McFarlands
Following the publication of Phoebe Eaton’s “Grand Old Class War,” [July 3–10], KT Troia McFarland has been quoted attempting to explain why she turned her back on her brother Michael during his illness and death. Words she uses even now to portray him include promiscuous, self-destructive, and ashamed, conjuring up the discredited imagery of people with aids as weak or immoral, and the disease as their inevitable fate. I was Michael’s partner from 1980 to 1986, and, after that, his devoted friend and caretaker. Contrary to his sister’s loaded imagery, Michael was a responsible man and he was very much loved. Although she lived directly across the park from where he died, McFarland was absent throughout Michael’s last years, did not attend his memorial service, and has never since tried to contact any of us in his circle of care. What is cause for censure is not Michael’s life or death, but McFarland’s neglect of a brother who really needed her.
—Ron Prince, Manhattan

July 24, 2006