Thursday, November 6, 2014
Need More Happy?
"Do you write happy stuff? I need more 'happy' in my life."
A friend of mine from church was being honest with me, like friends should be. He's read some of the things I've written, and noted my penchant for pessimism.
And he's right, isn't he? You know what "happy" is - something cheerful, optimistic, smile-inducing; in other words, everything everyday news is not.
So, do I write happy stuff? No, not a lot. I know that. And it's a reality that tends to bother me. I can write all day about stuff that saddens me. But I have to rack my brain for personal memories that are happy. I have to scour the Internet to find happy news, or topics that spark my imagination in a lighthearted, uplifting way.
Both my friend and I know the reason why "happy" is elusive. He readily admits that he needs more happy in his life, and so do I. And, I suspect, so do you. But we neither need nor truly want the type of happy that is fleeting, or trite, or based on illusion that everything's right with the world.
To be clear and Biblical, we need to understand that happiness is not joy or peace. Joy or peace can be present even in the worst of circumstances, whereas happiness is more of an emotion that is dependent upon pleasant, if not fulfilling, circumstances. The Apostle James says we should "count it all joy" when we're suffering, but he says nothing about being happy with it.
My friend, a born-again Christian, knows that everything isn't right with the world, and so do I, and I hope you do, too. In fact, that's why he - and I, and you - would like to see more "happy" in our lives. We know that in this fallen world, there's far too much pain, despair, and plain old unhappiness that we deal with every day.
I had lunch today with somebody who'd just lost a job we'd celebrated him getting only a year ago. Every day this week, my father, who suffers from senile dementia, has had miserable spells in which he couldn't remember anything about Mom, me, or our family. I imagine you have news from your family and friends that could be even worse than mine.
A lot of my Republican friends are elated with the results of this past Tuesday's elections, but political euphoria has to be one of the most transitory, temporary, and easily-destroyed sensations on the planet. Just two years ago, Democrats were giddy at what appeared to be the prospect of a severely crippled GOP. Tides can turn quickly in a democracy, but pundits on both sides of the aisle tend to forget that.
As quickly as it stormed our national consciousness, Ebola appears to have suddenly evaporated as a major crisis for America. Even in Africa, experts say the number of new Ebola cases appears to be declining. Yet it's hard to get happy over that, because 99.99% of us don't know anybody who got sick or died from it. The only people who may be happy about Ebola's apparent downturn likely are the ones who let the media make them panic about it in the first place.
You want happy? Real "happy"? So do I. But I'm not going to over-drink or over-eat to get some sort of pseudo-happy thing going on in my body. I can't bring myself to read celebrity websites so I can indulge in a bit of schadenfreude when reading about the romantic misfortunes and fashion flubs of famous people. I don't have the money to go out and splurge on clothing, technology, or exotic travel that may not be bad for me, but that could only give me a brief high of consumeristic gluttony.
Happy? Happiness is what so many people want, and spend their lives searching for. Happiness is one reason people invest their time, energy, and money on religious pursuits, or following a favorite sports team. The search for happiness is something that can drive athletic people, since endorphins are created naturally by our bodies when we exercise.
Meanwhile, aside from my faith, I tend to find my happiness in things that can't really be purchased, or even earned. I'm no environmentalist quack, but I can honestly say that big trees with broad canopies make me happy, especially on sunny summer days here in Texas! Any summer day is usually a happy kind of day when I'm in Maine. Laughing at a good joke makes me happy. Admiring classic cars, listening to children play nicely with each other, and listening to really good music can also make me happy.
Sometimes, I write about these experiences with happiness. But, no, not that often; I know. Most of the time, I write about things that could make us happy, but that have somehow gotten corrupted by our human penchant to abuse otherwise good things.
So, in a way, I'm still writing about happiness, but I'm writing about it in its absence, rather than its presence.
Okay, that's taking the whole thing too far, isn't it? Of course, there's no happiness in reading about how happiness is corrupted!
Which brings us back to needing more "happy" in our lives.
"Be ye happy" is not in the Bible. But that's not a good enough reason not to write about happy things more. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that when I see "happy," I'll try to write about it. But it won't be fluffy, or cute, or hollow. I just can't do fluffy, cute, or hollow.
And when I don't see "happy," I'll be writing about that, too. Not to be depressing, necessarily, but to point out where we might have had "happy" instead of whatever we got.
Let's say that most of the happiness about which I write is a work in progress!
As for getting more "happy" in your life, the next time you pass by a big tree, slow down and admire it.
Unfortunately for him, Ronald Reagan has been quoted as saying that "a tree's a tree. How many more do you need to look at?"
I prefer Martin Luther's take on trees: "Every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver."