Are You Happy?

Well, I’m happy that I don’t have to date anymore, or sit in classrooms anymore–but I’m not really thinking about that kind of happiness.

People want Happiness with a capital H. Happiness with a small “h” is a byproduct of other things. I’m writing a new book, I’m cuddling a cat, or suddenly I’m aware of the nearness of God: these things make me happy. But that’s not Happiness that stands alone, as a thing in itself.

People want Self-fulfillment, as if it were a free-standing object that could somehow be obtained. Like “small h” happiness, it is a byproduct of doing other things. You can’t have it all by itself.

Happiness is like heat. Heat exists when it’s produced by something else–combustion, friction, pressure, etc. If you stop doing whatever it is that’s producing heat, you don’t get any more heat, and what you have, ebbs away.

Do not seek for Happiness as an end in itself, because there’s no such thing. Stay away from colleges. Stay away from people who make a habit of being unhappy. Steer clear of Serious Mainstream Literature. Don’t listen to intellectuals.

Do things that produce happiness. If you’re cold, you have to do something that produces heat. This is not rocket science. If you’re sad, keep it simple–read a good book. Fix something that’s broken. Do somebody a good turn. Hum a nice tune. Open your Bible and read it. Pray.

Or just grow up and accept the fact that you’re not going to be Happy all the time.

Only a simpleton or a college English major would expect to be.

One comment on “Are You Happy?”

  1. That’s a great point about Happiness as opposed to happiness.

    The first is an illusion, frequently driven by false expectations and the perfect tool for advertisers or other entities which seek to influence you to their ends. Nothing can make you Happy. If I were so foolish as to go out and finance a new sports car I might feel excited but it wouldn’t truly be happiness. The excitement wears off and one is left with car payments, insurance costs, maintenance and the inevitable deterioration which affects all material things. When I was younger, I pursued such things as a source of Happiness, but have long since tired of the expenses inherent when I try to buy my way to Happiness.

    Lowercase happiness, the joy and satisfaction we get from simple pleasures, requires time, reflection and patience. Waking up to attend to a screaming baby at 3 AM is not all that much fun, but having a child grow into a productive adult can be a source of real happiness.

    All sorts of examples could be employed to illustrate the point, but it all reverts to something I’ve heard called the “secret of contentment”, which is to say, how can I be happy with some future situation if I can’t find happiness in my current situation. The fact is, I can’t. We have to make the best of our current situation, even if we are looking to change matters in the future.

    I have a photograph of the site of a former Relocation Center used to lock up Japanese Americans during WW II. The story of the War Relocation Act is a study in and of itself, but my point in bringing this up is how the Japanese dealt with the situation. They were forced to leave the west coast and ended up in hastily constructed camps with appalling conditions. Yet, if you look at photos of these camps you will see young trees planted in front of the barracks.

    The Japanese Americans were in a very unfortunate situation, but they made improvements using their own assets. The relatively flimsy buildings they lived in were improved upon and some became quite homey. They played baseball, played music, held beauty contests, and had all sorts of activities within the camps. They were living in harsh conditions, but they made their lives better in any way they could. I keep an aerial photograph of a camp nearby which shows that 70 years after the fact, the trees still flourish and make things a little better, long after the camp was dismantled. It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

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