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18 August, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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The Turkish city that discovered the key to happiness

Joshua Allen
The Turkish city that discovered the key to happiness

After a 730km journey from Istanbul, I stepped off the bus on Turkey’s northern coast where the forest meets the Black Sea. My first breath of Sinop air was clean, with hints of fir and ozone. On that July morning I was on a quest: to discover why residents of Sinop province are the happiest in the country.

“Everyone knows everyone here. It's peaceful. And no-one interferes with anyone else,” my taxi driver, Bekir Balcı, explained as we drove east from the bus station towards Sinop city, the provincial capital.

The road ambled through gentle hills and fields dotted with cows; out of one window, evergreen trees zipped past, while out the other, narrow beaches sprawled parallel to the road. I relaxed into the seat, allowing myself to be soothed by the landscape.

The car shuddered abruptly over a pothole. “There's just one thing, the roads aren't so good,” Balcı added with a shrug.

According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, Sinop province ranks poorly compared to the rest of the country in health and infrastructure. And yet Sinop has come in top for happiness in the institute’s Life Satisfaction Survey several years in a row. So, what is the secret?

Sinop is famous as the birthplace of the Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes, who lived a beggar’s life on these streets around 300BC. His lifestyle earned him the nickname ‘the Cynic’, a word derived from the Ancient Greek word for ‘dog’. The philosopher is often credited with the founding of Cynicism – the belief that social conventions impede personal freedom and hinder one’s path to the good life, while living according to nature is the quickest way to satisfaction.

“[Diogenes] found happiness in a life of simplicity in accord with nature ‒ a life of challenging those he met to enjoy what they had and care nothing for what they didn’t have,” explained Professor Stephen Voss at the Department of Philosophy at Boğaziçi University.

Diogenes found happiness in a life of simplicity in accord with nature

Diogenes chose to live with nothing but the clothes on his back and a barrel in which he slept, and used humour to critique religious practitioners, political leaders and others who adhered to what he believed were unnatural social orders.

According to local legend, Alexander the Great went to visit Diogenes and found him sitting outside. When asked whether he wanted anything from the king, the philosopher said, “You can stand aside and stop blocking the sunlight.”

The 15-minute taxi ride brought me to the heart of Sinop city, which occupies the narrowest part of a tiny peninsula that stretches out into the Black Sea. A statue of Diogenes in the city centre – erected in 2006 – was an indication that his approach to life had not been forgotten here.

There were no traffic lights, but compared with the chaotic streets of Istanbul, the cars circulated in harmony. In fact, the pavements were crowded with people who chose to walk rather than drive; there was no apparent hurry to get anywhere, despite it being a weekday morning.     - BBC

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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