by Ben Shine
Have you ever heard of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon? If you haven't, I bet you will now hear about it again really soon. The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is when you hear about a word or phrase, and then all of a sudden, everywhere you go, it seems to pop up. Try it out yourself with my most recent example of this particular form of cognitive bias -- the Danish concept of hygge (allegedly pronounced "hYOOguh, but not like a jalopy horn). Hygge is a word I learned from local designer Penelope Dullaghan'sblog, but I've heard more times since than mere coincidence should allow. The concept intrigues me and has me pretty excited about the dark, cold season of winter.
As a lover of words, (a logophile, if you will), an English major in college, a professional writer, a crossword puzzle enthusiast and an occasional blogger -- my world spins on an axis of thinking about words and their meanings. I believe there exists the perfect word for everything, and one of the things I love most about the mutt of a language we speak in the U.S. is that, like the "melting pot" of our national lineages, we can pick and choose the things we like from other cultures and make them our own. (As long as we're not Columbusing ["discovering" something that's already existed forever], my other recent experience with the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.)
The term hygge itself has no literal translation in English. It's more of a mindset than a definable word, but most sources seem to call it a hybrid between coziness and togetherness, with the purpose of staving off the pains of short winter days, cold nights and lots of snow and ice. In the home, the mindset of hygge involves a lot of candles, warm clothes and mindful cuddles. Outside the house, it focuses on being together with friends and neighbors, sharing warmth, life and probably a warmed alcoholic beverage with some good food.
Those Danes do everything right. They've mastered the art of simplicity in living -- furniture that's a healthy combination of warm and sleek, modern and organic; a work-life balance that isn't short on the life part; and a social contract that prioritizes citizen involvement, generosity and stewardship. They're regularly measured as some of the happiest people on the planet. They've also come up with the perfect mindset to deal with darkest, coldest days of winter.
Hygge is special because it involves a feeling of coziness in our own spirits, our homes and our minds, but also in our community. Can we adopt hygge as our word for the season as a city (or a subset of the city)? Let's use it as our guide for how we're going to live in the winter of 2015 in Indianapolis together. Let's get cozy -- in our own minds, in our own homes and with each other. Let's spend the darkest, slushiest, brown-snowiest part of the year choosing happiness instead of drudgery, being excited about good conversation and woolly slippers. Hygge's in?
With some paper hats and a bit of Danish inspiration, we can make this Indianapolis winter as special as this song by Efterklang: