I read this Atlantic piece with amusement. It concerns a study into a correlation between money and happiness, and the researcher became quite depressed as he realised that even the super-rich think they would be "perfectly" happy only if they had double or triple the amount of money they already have.
The researcher seems to have missed the forest for the trees, for what seems to make the super-rich he studies at least temporarily happier is winning high-states poker games or besting each other at charitable donations. Well, winning is always nice. I get quite excited when I win a free Lotto ticket or--yippee!--£25. That covers almost a quarter of our gambling budget for the year, and I mark it down in the Household Accounts as "Entertainment."
I think the secret of happiness is not to chase the emotion but to enjoy it fully whenever it comes. I am not actually sure what Maeterlinck's "Blue Bird of Happiness" is about, but if his point is that it flutters hither and thither and lands on your hand occasionally, then yeah. That makes sense.
While writing my annual Christmas piece for LSN, I was filled with gloom.
B.A. and I are going to have a perfectly nice Christmas, I hasten to say. We're going to give a little Polish supper for Wigilia, and then we're going to Midnight Mass as usual. When we get home, I will roll up my Sacred Family Christmas Chelsea Bun and leave it to rise. On Christmas morning, I will bake the Sacred Family Christmas Chelsea Bun, and then B.A. and I will wash half of it down with coffee while opening our presents. Then we will find some sort of transport to Christmas III Mass, and after that we will go to the countryside, my Sacred Family Christmas Trifle wrapped in ice-cube filled dish towels, to stay with a friendly Catholic family for a few days. There will be a Christmas feast. It will be all very British Trad Catholic and jolly.
But this was the second Christmas we were planning to spend in Canada with family, and we can't. That is, we chose to follow B.A's oncologist's advice, to safeguard B.A.'s health. That doesn't sound as bad. Also, as Christmas-observing Christians all know, "Jesus"--not family-- "is the Reason for the Season."
Not all Christians observe Christmas, by the way. I am thinking primarily of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, of which I am fond because of our friend Calvinist Cath. The Wee Frees, as they are jocularly called, observe Sundays with great staunchness, vigour and trouble to themselves, but they don't celebrate any of the feasts of the Roman Calendar because they don't believe God asked anyone to do so. I think this lacks historical consciousness, but as this is an aside, I won't get into that.
Right. So although we are going to have a lovely Christmas, complete with two feasts (three if you count the Bun binge) and two Masses--possible three, if we go to Mass on the 26th, too, as the Poles think we are supposed to--I am still sad that we will not be in Canada with my family. And I must say that is rather ironic to be a pro-life, pro-baby, pro-family crusader when I've never been pregnant, never had a baby, and see members of my family three times a year max.
The general idea of pro-family activism is that happiness comes not from money and career but from loving (I mean loving, not having sex with) people, accepting their love in return, and putting up with them in and out of season while striving to make it easier for them to put up with you. That is actually sound, in a sense, although it is important to concentrate on the family and friends you HAVE instead of the ones you don't. And a good chunk of that happiness might have developed from the sense of a duty done because loving does not always mean liking, especially if you come from a broken home.
Meanwhile, the Stoics would argue that happiness comes from developing satisfaction with whatever life brings. You can't control what life brings, but you can control your reactions to what life brings. If you are sad you don't have children, it is worth remembering that there are many people who have children but are utterly miserable all the same. Children are not a magic happiness wand.
And I really have no cause to complain about my lot. I have a kind husband who is in work, and his brain tumours have stopped growing and may be disintegrating. I have an interesting job which brings me into contact with many interesting people but still leaves me enough time for housework, language study, and culinary projects. We own (!) our own home. My parents and siblings and their children are all still alive and (D.V.) I will see them all in February.