This week in Boulder, from April 10th-14th, the University of Colorado hosts the CWA or the Conference for World Affairs. It is a week-long gathering featuring lectures from prominent leaders across the world, including keynote speaker David Newman– NASA’s deputy administer, NFL Player Chris Borland, and Debra Eschemeyer, former Policy Advisor for Michelle Obama’s nutritional project, Let’s Move! The CWA is a veritable cornucopia of intelligent, ambitious minds lecturing on their successes and it’s been a fascinating experience listening in on different series.

One lecture I attended was “The Pursuit of Happiness” which featured four different speakers discussing their various experiences with attaining happiness, and the research they’ve compiled on happiness attained by others throughout the world. Much of what they discussed revolved around whether money really buys happiness. Across the board, or across the round table, the answer was a resounding no. One of the speakers noted that in his research, there was no difference in happiness between those who made $100,000 and those who made $1 million. The biggest indicator of happiness, they agreed, was following your passion. That, they said, and finding everyday ordinary ‘happiness’s’ in one’s daily life. Finding joy in little, every day things increases your optimism and helps cultivate one’s own positivity. The trend of mindfulness, seems to have something to it. Another topic they discussed included whether people are less happy today than in the past. One speaker noted that with technology and consumerism, we are faced with an onslaught of choices, which creates angst and anxiety. Rather than making our lives easier, in some ways, technology and choices makes our lives more complex and difficult. One panelist called the use of our phones and social media “like a monkey with a morphine button”, which sometimes seems like a fairly apt comparison.

The CWA itself began in 1948 and began as a conference for international affairs, featuring leaders around the world. Later, it began to include arts, media, the environment, technology, spirituality, etc. Roger Ebert, who participated in the CWA for many years, called it “The Conference on Everything Conceivable” and after witnessing the wide range of topic and lectures, I am inclined to agree. The University has also compiled recording from previous conferences, as far back as the 50’s, in order to keep a record of the ‘historic tenor’ of the times. The recordings include topics on civil rights, student revolution in the 60’s, Nixon, the fight for freedom in South Africa, and more. It honestly seems like a giant TED Conference, explicating on the topical events of our times. It is an incredibly useful and interesting tool, allowing students and the public to listen in on relevant discourse that effects their lives in a myriad of ways.

Theresa Duncan is primarily a student of writing and lover of literature, currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, England. She has previously worked for Ocean Magazine and the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, and enjoys learning about the esoteric eccentricities of every town she visits. She loves books of all kinds, climbing and bouldering around Colorado, and drinking a jag of Pimms with her tutors when she’s in England. She has a BA from California Lutheran University in English and hopes to eventually pursue a Ph.D in Literature.