On our last day in Copenhagen we were set free to pursue our own flourishing about the city, though only after meeting in our classroom one last time to discuss the sum of our experiences and what we have learned in our time here. To start, we made a list of some of the keys to the Danish model of flourishing that we have seen or been taught about. They were:
- homogeneity - low expectations - equality - contentment
- security - humility - trust - family (nuclear & national)
- socialization - moderation - togetherness - sustainability
There is some overlap among ideas here, but these twelve terms do well outlining our (all too brief!) experiences of life in Denmark, and why it might so consistently be ranked among the happiest countries.
When asked what we learned about Danish flourishing that we will carry back to the United States with us, one thing we discussed, which I believe highlights an important difference between Denmark and the U.S., was the Danish emphasis on family, or the idea of "hygge" that we have discussed in some of our posts here. Of course "family values" are still very much a part of our national and political discourse in the United States, but in Denmark they have a considerably different meaning. Particularly because the Danish population is so homogenous, it is easy to perceive the entire nation as a kind of family - or tribe, as the idea was explained to us in our welcome to DIS and in our lecture about the welfare state - with similar, rather than competing interests and an overarching idea that everyone has a responsibility to look out for everyone else.
Where we tend to tack political significance onto the idea of family values, that's not really an issue in Denmark because everyone's values are pretty much aligned. While the size and diversity of the United States population might make this sort national cohesion seem unlikely, even among our own families and friends we saw room to improve the way we spend time together by simply being more conscientious, by valuing what we have.
Our group agreed that, strict immigration regulations aside, we certainly felt we could be happy living in Denmark, but not in any way that was unattainable to us in the United States. Recognizing that we are all tremendously privileged to have been able to experience this past week and a half, and that in America that sort of capability is indicative of the individual success freedom our country posits as "flourishing," at an individual level there was nothing especially alien about the Danish people or culture. Certainly some things they accept as normal would seem "outlandish" in the United States (the freedom they afford their children, for example), but the personal outlook at the core of the Danish way of life (the philosophy!) seems, to me, utterly agreeable; indeed, any of the values listed above would surely be recognized as "good" in the U.S. as well.
Following our discussion we went out into the city to try and do everything we hadn't been able to. We managed to accomplish a fair amount, including a climb up the spiral stairs outside the spire of the Church of Our Savior, which presented a beautiful panorama of the city and far beyond, and lunch at a hot dog stand which, apparently, are very popular in Copenhagen. Even though Garrett and I accidentally ended up with odd sausage burgers topped with cabbage and mayonnaise instead of hot dogs, our philosophical growth from here allowed us to appreciate their unique deliciousness all the same... Sort of.
In a more applicable example of applied philosophy, we split up after lunch so that we would each have time to see and do what we wanted, accepting even our small group's diverse interests. I visited the beautiful (and free!) botanical garden, one of the many green spaces set amidst the cement and cobblestones of the city, and then took a brief visit to the National Museum (also free!) before we all met up with Dr. McCarthy and her family for our last dinner in Denmark.