We all search it out, some even find it. We enjoy it when we have it and spend the rest of our time trying to get it back. For us mortal men it is goal, something at which we grasp, seeking it out in the way we conduct our lives.
What is it? Millions of words attempt to describe it, few do. It is known when you truly have it; often we delude ourselves into believing “Yes, this is it!”
I know it because I have it and it seems here for the duration so long as I honor it. Can I put it into words to explain it? Perhaps!
But first, before trying I am posting three articles on my Archive, each taken from the Opinionator column of the New York Times. They are:
(Click on the title of each to go to it on the Archive.)
The first article has this to say of happiness:
Happiness is not a state of mind… Happiness isn’t just up to you. It also requires the cooperation of the world beyond you… Happiness is more like knowledge than like belief... Knowledge is not just up to you, it requires the cooperation of the world beyond you — … happiness isn’t just up to you. It also requires the cooperation of the world beyond you. Happiness, like knowledge, and unlike belief and pleasure, is not a state of mind.
One especially apt way of thinking about happiness — a way that’s found already in the thought of Aristotle — is in terms of “flourishing.”…. The sense of the expression is not just that they feel good, but that they’re, for example, accomplishing some things and taking appropriate pleasure in those accomplishments.
It’s enjoyed after you’ve worked for something, or in the presence of people you love, or upon experiencing a magnificent work of art or performance — the kind of state that requires us to engage in real activities of certain sorts, to confront real objects and respond to them
The second article the writer believed he faced death only to survive. He describes happiness in this way:
This is the paradox death imposes upon us: it grants us the possibility of a meaningful life even as it takes it away. It gives us the promise of each moment, even as it threatens to steal that moment, or at least reminds us that some time our moments will be gone. It allows each moment to insist upon itself, because there are only a limited number of them. And none of us knows how many.
I prefer to think that the paradox of death is the source not of despair but instead of the limited hope that is allotted to us as human beings. We cannot live forever, to be sure, but neither would we want to. We ought not to mind the fact that we will die, although we really would rather that it not be today. Probably not tomorrow either. But it is precisely because we cannot control when we will die, and know only that we will, that we can look upon our lives with the seriousness they merit. Death takes away from us no more than it has conferred: lives whose significance lies in the fact they are not always with us.
Our happiness lies in being able to inhabit that fact.
The third article has this to say:
Happiness is not quantitative or measurable and it is not the object of any science, old or new. It cannot be gleaned from empirical surveys or programmed into individuals through a combination of behavioral therapy and anti-depressants. If it consists in anything, then I think that happiness is this feeling of existence, this sentiment of momentary self-sufficiency that is bound up with the experience of time
…. one feels neither the pull of the past nor does one reach into the future. Time is nothing, or rather time is nothing but the experience of the present through which one passes without hurry, but without regret… eternal life is given to those who live in the present.”
What I can describe of what I know as happiness is this:
I have repeatedly asked the question throughout my life “What’s it all about?” To search an answer to that question some years ago I started writing a memoir accordingly entitling it: “So, What’s it all About?” I did not expect to answer my question but surprisingly got the answer!
And what a blessing it is to learn and recognize what I sincerely believe to be happiness as a result.
In the memoir I stated I know there is more I must do in my life. I do not know what that is. I learned to trust my life leads me to outcomes and I believe I will learn what more I have to do.
Some time later in the memoir I wrote: I have now learned what it is I have yet to do.
What I learned and what I have been doing is this:
I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Overwhelmed I thought why me? In answer I applied that already learned in the AA program in which I have participated these past 37 years. I learned in recovering from alcoholism, the occurrence of which was the watershed of my life, that the only way to cope with the kind of misfortune that alcoholism is you must embrace it entirely, doing so accept it fully, turn it over to the care of a higher power outside of yourself and make the best of it.
I did that, it worked. It continued to work in all I encountered or confronted thereafter.
It proved no different with AD. Diagnosed more than 4.5 years ago, living and grappling with the effects of this terrible disease, I am happier than I have ever been for the previous 69 years I lived before diagnosis.
When all is lost, there is nothing more to lose. This is one of the more liberating sensations of living.
I had lost all I was striving to be; all I wanted to have; all I wanted to attain or continue in my life. All I had done seemed for naught. All I had done was certainly over and done with.
The paradoxical thought of finding yourself in such a predicament is “It is just not so bad!”
No longer would I have to be anything, go anywhere, get. All of those doors closed on me. The doors also closed on the obligations that attended all those life baubles I spent such effort acquiring.
The best part of this awful turn was this: I knew what I had left to do. I was being called on to accept this excoriation which AD is and do something positive in my life for others. The formula’s application was simple enough.
I chose to commit my life to AD. To acknowledge it openly, to advocate in its favor, to speak about it, above all to write about it, all in the hope that it will help others.
This has been my dedication this last more than four years. During this time I have been at peace and blessed with serenity. For the first time ever in spite of many pleasurable events, my successes and acquisition of much, I feel fulfilled.
I have not felt this once at anytime in my life before this. I have always been conscious of an open bottomless hole in the heart and soul of me.
For the first time in my life I am about what I was born to be about.