How is true happiness achieved?

Everyone wants to be happy. A little child may say: “I want to be rich and have a car faster than anybody else’s ... I want to be an astronaut and fly higher than anyone ... I want to be a famous doctor and cure everybody.”

A schoolboy/girl has more sober wishes: “It would be good to get to University ... appear on TV ... travel the world.”

An adult may say: “I would feel happy if I received a higher wage ... if I won the lottery ... if I had a holiday house ... if I was promoted in my employment ... if I had good health ... if I had a great family life.”

But the experience f life is that many of our hopes will not be fulfilled. And, even if our wishes are realised and we are happy, we have to accept that the conditions of our life are uncertain and transitory. Let’s just think about it. Many people have an accident. Many successful people have lost their jobs. It has happened that a lottery winner died of excitement. Disease strikes and ruins our health.

Lance Webb in ‘How Bad Are Your Sins’ tells the story of the young man who came to a famous doctor in Paris, complaining of depression. He asked what he could do to get well. The doctor recommended that he introduce himself to a well-known young man called Grimaldi, a leader of cafe-society who was intimately acquainted with all the worldly pleasures of Paris nightlife. The downcast young man looked up with a sardonic smile and said: “I am Grimaldi.”

An English newspaper once asked the question: ‘Who are the happiest people on Earth?. There were four prize-winning answers:

A craftsman or artist whistling over a job well done

A little child building sandcastles

A mother, after a busy day, bathing her baby.

A doctor, who has finished a difficult and dangerous operation, and saved a human life.

None of these is about money, power, fame, glory - all of which can bring a certain happiness, but a happiness predicated in their possessions. Lose them and happiness is lost, also. The inner meaning of the four winning answers unveils the way to happiness in life. Joseph Addison wrote: “The grant essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.”

God gives us these three things and is the Ultimate Happiness. Franz Joseph Haydn, the great composer, wrote: “When I think upon my God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap from my pen.”

Fr James High

St Margaret’s Church