You didn’t really think I’d have an answer for you, did you? When I was a kid back in elementary school, we would have these vocabulary tests every week. Something that always pissed me off, for lack of a better phrase, was when I opened up a dictionary and found something like:
noun: happiness; plural noun: happinesses1. the state of being happy.
It All Started With A Button
If you’re a man, I’m sure you’ve had some buttons come off, and hopefully you’ve pulled some off yourself as well. I’m a computer geek, I’ve never really done much sewing and since my girlfriend is way too far to help, I found an excellent guide on how to sew on a button. I went out and bought a little sewing kit, learned how to thread a needle in two different ways, and managed to sew on a couple of buttons.
After having done that, I thought to myself, “Hmm, this Art of Manliness (AoM) site looks really interesting.” And so it began…
I will try to define happiness through:
- What Steven Pressfield said in the interview with AoM
- What an old student of mine once told me about philosophy and man
- Why happiness is not synonymous with huge success
- How we can learn to be happier thanks to Scrooge
Work To Be Happy
Now, you may or may not have heard about Steven Pressfield. I hadn’t, but I will get one of his books as soon as I can afford to. In his interview with AoM, he says,
If you look at people crash and burn after success…
they suddenly get the fruits of their labor, and they just dive in and forget everything else…
There’s also a mention of work being its own reward. The late Stephen R. Covey, in his 7 Habits book also says,
Happiness – in part at least – the fruit of the desire and ability to sacrifice what we want for what we want eventually
And so my first conclusion here is that happiness, besides being a choice, requires constant work and effort to maintain. It is through our labor, partly, that we find happiness. The next iPod, cigarette, ice cream bar might give us a shot of pleasure, but this has nothing to do with the steadfast maintenance of happiness.
One of my old students once told me that we have to be true to ourselves. This was years ago, but I will quote Tupac Shakur from his song Staring Through My Rearview:
Real niggaz do they wanna do, bitch niggaz, do what they can’t
Now we all get pushed around, some more, some less. Our bosses, parents, siblings, and spouses often try to mold us into an image of what we should be like. Excuse my French here, but you just can’t give a flying fuck about what they want or think. First and foremost, you must be true to yourself and do whatever it is that you want to do. You will live with those consequences, but when you walk through the valley of the shadows of death, you’ll take a look at your life and realize (Coolio) – now stop – I did it my way (Frank Sinatra).
So the second lesson here is, you have to be true to who you are and mold the kind of life you want for yourself so that you are happy.
Happiness ≠ Success
If you aren’t reading AoM, then start now. I found a superb article about How To Be a Scrooge This Year. The title really threw me off. After all, I don’t want to be like Scrooge, do you? Then as you get into it, you’ll actually want to read Dickens’ story all over again. Here’s an excellent quote from the article:
There will always be reasons to have a dismal attitude or outlook. If you’re waiting for life to be perfect before you cheer up, you’re bound to go through life as a Scrooge. While we often let our circumstances be the source of our mood, we don’t have to. Joy can be found in any situation, as is beautifully illustrated in this passage about the Cratchit family…
Go and read the article if you want to read the passage about the Cratchit family. From a personal standpoint, I look back at my days from childhood when my family and I were poor. We had lived in Canada a the time and even though we all shared a single room and I got shoes from the one dollar store, my parents always found time to go out. Whether it was for a walk, to the swimming pool, ice-skating, or whatever, it was simply awesome. Unfortunately, things later changed and never really returned to that state, but for my own family now, I know what’s important. It’s not the next iPod as I’d said, it’s all about people. As much as I love technology and frankly would be saddened by life without it, those few people that you feel care about you are a very important part of your happiness.
I suppose that the next thing I want to say is that you have a choice about how you see life. Shit hits the fan once in a while, I would love to learn how not to be surprised. People die, marriages break up, diseases cripple lives. And those are the times when we have to look into the warrior inside of us, which we all have by the way but it’s just been muffled by our upbringing, and fight to make sure we’re sane and happy. Pain will come, it’s an inevitable part of life. You just have to survive in those trenches for a while and make the best of it.
So you are probably asking now, “So are you happy, wise ass?”
Yesterday I had a wonderful Christmas dinner. Some people who very well knew I would be alone for Christmas invited me over, though obviously they had no obligation to do so. No judging, no pushing, no unmet expectations, just a lovely time spent with some great people. Sure, I miss my girlfriend and the kids more than ever, but I am also very grateful and convinced even further that Ireland is a wonderful place. She’ll be over in a matter of months anyway, we’re working on it.
And so, to answer your question – yes, I’m happy.
I will end on that note, and wish you all Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year!