A person I have known for some years now just recently got engaged. It is a time of celebration and joy. Moments like these bring a smile to all and has made me realize how much I like the word happiness However I am slow to use it and it nearly always provokes a strange look on the faces of those who hear. It seems almost presumptious to speak as if we have any right to expect full happiness. And yet happiness has been the concern of humans since earliest times, as we can see in the Greek Philosophers reflections on happiness. And we are told that among Jesus’ first words in his early Sermon on the Mount was “Happy are those who…. ” In more recent times, Daniel Gilbert has made the focus of his study happiness and what makes us happy, as seen in his excellent book Stumbling on Happiness.
We are told that happiness is deep within us, even if we do not feel it. However, it seems to me that we have to work at it every day. It can occur even when times are tough, if we cultivate a spirit of noticing and wonder. We can practice the brain’s capacity for happiness by explicitly noting to ourselves the moments which are pleasant in each day, even the simplest. As in response to my friend’s engagement we can mentally toast these moments. And we can go further: we can create occasions of celebration in even the smallest events in our lives. This reminds us that life is not there just to be endured but to be celebrated. As Brother Roger of Taize used to say, we should ensure that the spring of jubilation will never dry up in our hearts.
The eye is meant to see things. The soul is here for its own joy.