Is happiness overrated?  Is it a state of mind, or a just moment in time, caught on the wing and held close only for a minute or so?  Wikipedia calls happiness a fuzzy concept, a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.

My son Sam is a happy man.  He was born happy– a sunny, smiling boy.  He has the personality of a ray of sunshine.  I’ve seen him angry and disappointed on very few occasions and those emotions evaporate quickly.  My wife contends that unlike his brothers’, Sam’s delivery was so easy and effortless–one push and out he popped–that the trauma-free experience set his attitude for life.  Could be.

My own birth occurred nearly two months early by Caesarian section.  My idea of happiness has been equally thwarted.  Some people remember all of their happy times; others dwell on unhappiness.  When real unhappy events take place, they loom large.  All our behavior is set against these moments of despair.  My therapist calls this behavior making the best choices off a bad menu.

My sons have given me all the happiness I may ever need.  It’s deep, personal, joyful happiness.  It will last forever.

But is this the only happiness I’ll ever know?  Is being in love happiness?

The photographer Duane Michals has a picture of a happy couple with these words beneath:

 This photograph is my proof. There was that afternoon, when things were still good between us, and she embraced me, and we were so happy. It did happen, she did love me. Look see for yourself!

 I had happiness that comes from love once.  It happened and then it was gone.  Disbelief devolved into abject misery.  Memories of happiness were too painful even to conjure up.  She asked me if it would have been better never to have had this joy in my life…and my answer was yes, it would have been better never to have met her.  It’s like asking a dying soldier whether he would have wanted to forego the joy of battle.

I’ve realized since that time that happiness may not be the goal.  Maybe serenity is.  Yet the loss of that human touch, the warmth of two lovers together, is irreplaceable.

 “But in contentment I still feel

The need of some imperishable bliss.”

 Now, the issue with happiness is that when you think too much about it, you inevitably question whether you were happy or not.  Was I really happy?  Will my joy last?  Happiness is in the experience.  Don’t dwell in it.  Live it.  Savor it.  Let it go.  William Blake said it best:

He who binds to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity’s sun rise.

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1 Comment

  1. sherri mciver

     /  October 10, 2012

    Beautifully put Niland, well considered. I wonder where you found that photo 🙂 Sxx


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