Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Search for Happiness

Everybody wants to be happy, and there's plenty of advice making the rounds on how to find happiness. For the  religious person, happiness is not something you find or achieve but is a by-product of a life lived well. And if we look for happiness outside of ourselves,the columnist in the open forum of the Catholic Times says,    we will always remain unsatisfied.

This external search for happiness usually results in a belief that if only we had this, or had that, we would be happy, but most know this is rarely the case. He recalls the time, not that long ago, when Koreans experienced what was called the 'barley hump' period before the early spring barley harvest. At that time, after the fall harvest had been consumed, many Koreans would be looking for edible grasses and herbs in the mountains and surrounding areas. Few of them would say they are happier today simply because of a "full stomach."

The columnist wonders if we tend to look for the big things, the unusual things of life, and forget to give thanks for the more common, but precious little things;  it's a great loss, he says.  We are running after the big things, even though we would find it difficult to explain why; maybe the reason, he suggests, is because everybody else seems to be doing it. 

One of the more common, precious little things of life we could not do without is of course the brain. Though a small part of our body, it does a great deal of the work, and a great deal of gratitude needs to be given to that body part. Today I was able to study, the columnist says, have breakfast, go to work, and write and read this message. There are people praying for me, we have enumerable number of things for which we can give thanks. When Jesus said the poor in spirit are happy, isn't this what he meant?

Like the morning fog, however, everything in this world has limits. Honors and power, especially, along with what most of us desire, don't last for long, he reminds us. The family wealth passed on to children, he says, rarely lasts for more than three generations. This is not saying we do not need material things. A follower of Jesus still works diligently, and is thankful for the honors and material wealth given, and uses it for the alienated and poor in society.

But when our hearts are filled with material things then no matter how precious, beautiful and vital are the non-material things surrounding us, there often is no room left in our hearts for bringing these higher values into our lives. The columnist would like us to reflect on this during these last days of Lent, and to find ways of doing less with the material values of life and doing more with the higher values that give meaning to our lives. 


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