“The fact that you’re reading this sentence means that you are richer and more educated than 99.5% of people in human history. It means you have almost immediate access to over half of all of the information and data ever created by the human race. It means you have the ability to educate yourself on subjects people previously spent their entire lifetimes to learn.” http://markmanson.net/shut-up-and-be-grateful
And despite all of this—or maybe because of it—we’re unhappy. We have an amazing standard of living in the United States. Don’t believe me? Then I suggest you watch the opening minutes of The Lion In Winter, Anthony Harvey’s excellent drama about Henry II of England. Specifically, the scene where Henry (masterfully portrayed by Peter O’Toole) gets out of bed, crosses to the washstand, and plunges his hands through the ice that overnight has formed over the top of the washbowl.
Right. When was the last time you had to do anything like that? But you were camping, right? But Henry was in his bedroom in his castle! Just be happy you’re living in 2015 and not 1183 like Henry. Especially be happy that unlike Henry, you’re probably not going to die at the age of 52 from a bleeding ulcer.
Or consider a later Henry. Henry III was an unhappy man because none of his 6 wives produced a satisfactory heir. Today we know that it was his own fault; but in the 16th century, science hadn’t evolved to the point where the role of the sperm-donor was recognized. And regardless, his wives did present him with three heirs, all of whom at one time or another occupied the throne (the most notable of whom was Elizabeth I).
And yet both of these men were kings of a very powerful nation. You’d think that would be enough to make them happy. Rich, powerful, handsome. What else is there? Oh, right: Henry III even started his own church and made himself its head! Indeed, my own grandparents were adherents of that very same church.
But what, exactly, is happiness? At this writing, I’m finding it easier to understand unhappiness than happiness: it’s the 4th day of April, some two weeks after the first day of spring, and I just looked out my window to discover it is snowing. And yesterday the temperature was 68°F/20C°!
So yeah, right now, I am NOT a happy camper! But what would it take to make me happy?
And as Shakespeare said, “Aye, there’s the rub!” As wisdom as well as age creeps up on me, I’ve come to realize a painful truth: there is nothing that can make me happy. But there’s another realization that goes hand in hand with that: there are lots of things that let me be happy. And to my way of thinking, that’s the same thing.
When I write, I’m happy. When I read your (rare) comments on one of my posts, I’m happy that what I had to say touched you. And since it’s snowing, I’m happy that there are two layers of window between the snow and me!
I’m happy that I can brew a fresh cup of coffee whenever I like. I’m especially happy that writing and good coffee or tea seem to go hand in hand; at least I can’t imagine one without the other.
The Battle of New Orleans, which every American schoolchild of a certain age learned was the decisive battle of the War of 1812, was actually fought after the treaty that ended the war was signed. The main reason was that no one knew the war was over. It took upwards of 3 months for new from Europe to reach across the Atlantic. Today, all I have to do is click on an icon in my blogging program and less than 3 seconds later, this post is available to anyone in the world with an internet connection.
And yes, I’m happy about that, too!
So it isn’t so much that things make me happy as it is that I let myself be happy.