Sunday, March 02, 2014

`But Happiness Rarely Stays in Place'

“Nothing will come and steal from us this hour
unless it’s our nagging, aggravating will
to think of things always as worse than they are”

The student was unhappy, and enthusiastically happy to tell me all about it. He came to my office for other reasons but his need to share news of his unhappiness took over. A thumbnail sketch: Exceptionally bright, gifted in mathematics and computer science, articulate, neat and well-groomed, conspicuously good teeth, impatient for success in business, convinced his parents and teachers failed to appreciate his destiny and were conspiring to sabotage his future. Without hesitation he said (verbatim – I wrote it down): “Everybody’s trying to make me unhappy.” He hinted that their motive was jealousy.
I’m no counselor. In this case, I wasn’t even much of a sympathetic listener, though I kept my thoughts to myself.  What impressed me was his conviction that he was entitled to happiness, that it was his birthright as a very bright fellow, and that others were out to deny him that right. Boswell reports Dr. Johnson saying: “That man is never happy for the present is so true, that all his relief from unhappiness is only forgetting himself for a little while. Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment.” This young man, I’m certain, never forgets himself, even for a little while. A wise old man once told me when I was whining about something that happiness is never the goal. Rather, it’s the occasional byproduct of living correctly. Striving after it virtually assures its elusiveness.
“But happiness rarely stays in place. These are
the happiest days.”
The quoted lines are from “These Are the Happiest Days” by Erica McAlpine in the March issue of The New Criterion.

1 comment:

The Sanity Inspector said...

Happiness is like a kiss -- in order to get any good out of it you have to give it to somebody else. -- Anonymous.

Happiness is not something you experience. It is something you remember.
--Oscar Levant, quoted in TIME, 1972