Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pursuing a Myth?

 Just when I was feeling really despondent, my sister comes through like no one else can!  She sent me an email containing an article called, "What Makes Us Tick? The Ten Desires That Drive Us" by Hugh Mackay.

It starts out explaining that sadness is as natural and no less valid than happiness.  As a society we expect to be happy most of the time and that we view it as if it is a tangible goal and that it is a 'natural' state to be in all the time.  In reality we would not know happiness if it weren't for it's opposite, sadness.  To feel ALL emotions at varying times is to experience the full spectrum of being human.  "There is no sovereign emotion," states the article.

"Mackay maintains that the fleeting moments of bliss and joy only make sense because they represent a contrast to the experience of pain, trauma, or sadness or even with those times when we feel trapped by routine."

He goes on to say, "Ancient wisdom suggests that the pursuit of personal happiness is counter-productive.  The more you seek it, the less likely you are to find it.  Asking, 'how can I become happier?' is a classic sign that we have missed the point.  He suggests that, 'how can I become more useful?' might be more appropriate."

He does not cite any particular source of ancient wisdom, but my favorite source is the Bible!  This is what the Bible is all about, relationship.  It's not a religion, it's a way of life.  It's how we can better serve God through our service to one another!  It says that is how true happiness is found.  That is, true contentedness and fulfillment.

"Given the turbulent times, Mackay asks are we exacerbating the problem by putting too much emphasis on 'positive outcomes' and not enough on the process of living courageously, kindly, or even nobly?"

The article continues, "Mackay hopes that happiness is beyond people's control.  Happiness is not something that can be summoned at will.  If ancient wisdom teaches anything, it is that the deepest forms of happiness - satisfaction, contentment, peace of mind - have almost nothing to do with pleasure and do not come to those who desire and pursue them.

"For Mackay, the test of a 'life well lived', lies in the quality of personal relationships and the care we devote to them.  Everything else is peripheral, and mostly trivial.

"He believes that personal relationships are the test-bed of sensitivity, moral courage and capacity for love.  These are, he says, not only the source of life's richest meanings, but - as people struggle to establish them, nurture them, and sometimes forsake them - they teach that notions like happiness or sadness are mere accidents of our fluctuating emotional state.  These are, Mackay maintains, incidental to the great realization that it is in loving we are made whole."

 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
 8 Love never fails...  
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8, 13 (NKJV)

Like the mythological unicorn, happiness cannot be captured, controlled or maintained like a possession.  But we can have something even better and more fulfilling simply by treating others as we would love to be treated (Luke 6:31).  When do we feel our happiest and most fulfilled?  Of course it's when we serve others out of love and concern for them!  And isn't it true that no one cares how much we know, or how good we are at something?  What they WILL remember is how we made them FEEL!


  1. Totally uplifting, thank you for the comfort and assurance. My mom is awaiting a biopsy and enduring constant pain. My sister and I helped her begin gifting a lifetime of her treasures, no easy task, in preparation for moving into a small apartment. Fortunately she has a wealth of friends who enjoy receiving a bit of her collections. Wonderful page!

  2. I am very pleased you found comfort in this article! What struck me the most was that someone put into words what I've always suspected, which is happiness is not a 'sovereign' emotion, or one that must be experienced at all times. Sorry to hear of the pain, but happy for your safe return!