Friday, September 24, 2010

The Secret to Happiness

When bounding on my way to the office this morning I chanced to cross paths with His Lordship walking his faithful mixed breed. I was somewhat astonished – though I realize now I never should have been – by his response to my cheerful enquiry whether everything was well in the Best of All Possible Worlds. Though I cannot now recall them, his exact words were less than aflame, the essence being more in keeping with a measured degree of cheerlessness. As I say, this intrigues me and for a couple of reasons. First, I admit to complete unpreparedness for the possible misery of others. This is no doubt the sad product of an unflattering tendency of mine generally to put on the blinkers insofar as the concerns of the world are relevant. Second, I made the mistake no doubt made by many others; viz., to imagine that certain people just haven’t the right to be dejected in view of their perceived abundance. Life of course proves time and again that it is indiscriminate in both its bounty and its deprivation.
I don’t want to make a big thing out of this; after all, there is quite a difference between being wretched and just having a bad day. But there was an element in His Lordship’s voice which to my keen ear betrayed a deeper vein of despondency. When the pressures of life begin to spawn hopelessness and depression, all is not well in the State of Denmark. Knowing what to do for another in these circs naturally tests one’s wit. We mustn’t be so presumptuous to be entitled to engage in otherwise private confidence. By contrast one doesn’t wish to appear unmoved by the symptoms.

I don’t know about you, but I am the type who lives pretty much in the moment. I know that might sound like I’m clapping myself on the back for not dwelling piteously on the past or apprehensively on the future, but really it is nothing of the sort, not at all a compliment. In fact, I see the pattern as more of a liability than anything else in that it rather encourages mercurial behaviour. I mean to say, what with life’s regular ups and downs, I tend to be little more than a puppet on a string. For those of you who engage in such sophisticated undertakings as planning your financial future, for example, I suspect you have long ago learned to ride out the random waves of existence. I on the other hand suffer from a malady which I once heard exemplified by a successful businesswoman as someone who makes five hundred dollars then spends five thousand to celebrate. The thing is I struggle to see the mistake in doing so even though I perpetually pay the penalty for my combined lack of wisdom and brimming eagerness.

Balancing these two extremes of behaviour is the proverbial via media, a path which I frankly think is just about anything one wants it to be, unless of course the true thrust is nothing more than denial. Remember too that it has its roots in religious terminology, specifically Anglicanism which as everyone knows is a fairly comfortable pew. In any event I consider myself the last person to be directing traffic at this particular intersection of life. “Go with the flow” would more justly capture my noblest sentiments on the subject. In the end I don’t suppose anyone has the key to unlock the secret to happiness. It is perhaps little more than a crap shoot.

The conviction some people harbour about the way in which they have chosen to conduct their lives is quite remarkable. More often than not the staunch advocates of living one way or another are those who currently enjoy an abundance of life’s gifts which I suppose is no surprise as everybody loves a winner. For those of us whose lives are tempered by less than the superlatives of existence, this fervour is lacking. Occasionally I enjoy a run of extremely good luck, and while I am not exactly looking over my shoulder to see what’s coming, I would be less than honest to suggest that I maintain nothing but a clear and unwavering eye upon the future. The reality is that life can at times be a bumpy road, indeed so bumpy as to derail the process from time to time. When these unexpected hiccups occur it is naturally the hour for the engagement of some of that armchair philosophy about which we all speak when everything is going along swimmingly. But as you know it is at such times extremely difficult to muster the strength to look upon life’s dispensations with nothing more than an idealistic scrutiny.

It is almost defeatist to concede that life exacts compromise. The overtones are too much in line with some kind of adversarial battle between opposing forces, hardly a way to greet the morning, though it does of course have its appeal to the litigators in the crowd or the more aggressive members of the team. Perhaps the word can be mollified by calling it acceptance, which however is akin to applying a veneer to an otherwise objectionable condition. Whatever one chooses to call it life is a riddle.

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