July 19th, 2008 18:12 EST
Albert Camus, a French journalist, playwright, and author is reported to have said the following about happiness: But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads? While I agree with Camus` definition of happiness, I`d like to expand upon it. I think that happiness consists possessing a sense of contentment with one`s life as well as feeling good about oneself. I have arrived at this definition at what I will consider to be the mid-point of my life (I am forty-three at the time of this writing).
Defined in this manner, I must confess that I have not had a great deal of happiness in my life. I have had more than my share of traumatic experiences, disappointments, delays, and denials of my goals, dreams, and aspirations. This is not the beginning of a pity party; this is the way it has been for me. Nor do I write these words to engender pity or sympathy; this is the way it has been for me.
It is precisely because of the reason that happiness has eluded me over the years that I have begun to think about what happiness entails. My sincere hope is that the second half of my life will bring me more happiness than the first half. In part, it is this desire for happiness that propels me forward as I live out the second half of my life.
Being a person of faith more specifically, a Christian of what many would call the evangelical? Persuasion I have heard more than a few messages on the concept of joy." I have even heard some ministers deliver sermons on the joy of the Lord." Some have gone so far as to say that, for the Christian, we should not strive to be happy. Instead, we should endeavor to possess this joy. As I have thought about it, I could not disagree more with these ministers, even though they have a right to proclaim what they feel moved to. For me, joy is a state of spiritual euphoria, which is temporary. This joy wells up within one, when he or she thinks about his or her spiritual state, salvation, or when one considers God`s activity in his or her life.
If this is the case, then joy is more fleeting than happiness. For me, happiness is a more constant state of being. It comes after seeking that which will bring one happiness, whether it is a particular career, a relationship, a hobby, or a philanthropic pursuit. For others, happiness will occur when one finds one`s soul mate, climbs the Alps, travels around the world, or discovers a cure for cancer. More than this, happiness comes after a great deal of reflection about oneself and one`s life. When you and I can feel good about ourselves and our lives, the soul can breathe a sigh of relief and say, Ahhhh! Defined in this way, give me happiness over joy any day.
How does one achieve happiness? Perhaps I have answered the question in the previous paragraph. If I have not, then I will not attempt to answer it now. Maybe I can point myself and those who will read these words in the right direction with this anecdote. When I was in high school, the members of the senior class voted me "Most Likely to Succeed" and elected me to be the class speaker. If memory serves me correctly, this was to be the most important speech of my young life. I spent several days and some nights researching, writing, and practicing my speech. However, I could not think of a good ending. One night, cleaning my room, I came across a plaque that someone had given me some months before. Inscribed on this plaque was the poem Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann. Ehrmann was a poet and lawyer. Written in 1952, it remains one of my favorite poems. At the end of the poem, he writes the following:
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
I think that Ehrmann was onto something. With all the sham, drudgery, and broken dreams of my life, my world has been a beautiful one. I do my best to remain cheerful. I strive to be happy. I think that this constitutes the direction in which one should go in order to find happiness. One has got to strive for it. So, for the balance of your days and mine, let`s strive to be happy.