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The Hermeneutics of Satisfaction

Jed Friedman's picture

Ten years ago when I was a graduate student piloting questionnaires in rural Indonesia, I sat with a translator and an elderly farmer in his front yard. Mid-way through the interview I asked this farmer the first of several standard questions related to general well-being and life satisfaction: “Thinking about your own life and personal circumstances, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole?” The farmer stared at us with a look of bewilderment on his face. So we asked a second time in a slow sympathetic tone.