Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Are You Happy Now?

An essay on happiness by a Catholic priest appeared a few days ago in the Chosun Ilbo, with the provocative headline "Are you Happy Now?" It tells the story of a woman born with cerebral palsy. He got to know her while he was a parish priest many years ago. She was not able to move on her own and had difficulty speaking clearly. Unfortunately, her parents tried to keep her condition hidden, so she spent most of her time in a room behind the house. The only association she had with others was the monthly visit by the priest and parishioners, who would make the rounds visiting the sick of the parish. On one of these visits, the woman managed to express the following:

"Father I see my life as insignificant and of little worth. I am a burden on all and am full of resentment. I have thought of suicide often but because of my condition this is not something I can do. I have always felt bitterness against God and my parents. In this world, everything has a meaning  and in my prayer all I do is ask God what is my reason for existence? However, this morning on the occasion of your visit my thoughts changed and were replaced by a new understanding of my pain. I understood that because of my pain, I am better able to respond sympathetically to the pain of others. I feel that I am able to serve those who are having pain in life. That is the reason for my life and the way I will find happiness in life."

The priest on hearing these words from the woman was greatly moved. Most people try to get rid of their pain but here was a woman who came to the realization that she could  serve others because of her experience with pain. The woman came to accept her situation and see it as a means to help others. She could see the positive side to the pain she was experiencing, which the priest considered very much like those who have dedicated their lives to a religious vocation. She no longer wanted to be hidden but wanted to face the world, and she did so with confidence; you could see in her demeanor and the way she moved her troublesome body.  She soon began to work among young women who were released from prison.  Although many years have passed, he believes she is still working to help others and a happy person.

The priest refers to a survey that was made among teenagers who were asked what they thought was the most important thing in life. Over half considered money the most important. There is no reason to find fault with this response, he said, for there are many who feel that with money all problems can be solved. Even happiness, many believe, can be bought. Money, which is no more than a piece of paper, is worshiped as if it were God-like.

We are all in search of happiness. Can we say that life is a journey to find happiness? the priest asks. What we know for sure, he goes on to say, is that we can't say what will bring us happiness or unhappiness. We have seen happiness and unhappiness change very quickly. Happy people can quickly forget their unhappiness of the past, and when unhappy they can quickly forget their past happiness.

We have often seen persons that have all the so-called conditions to be happy, but they are not happy.  Happiness is not something objective but is a subjective state.  Conditions for happiness are not necessary. We are happy, he says, when we think we are happy. In a word happiness depends on our wills  and attitude towards life.
No matter how insignificant something seems there is nothing in life that is insignificant; it is only we who see it as worthless and insignificant. If we open our eyes  and our hearts a little more, we will see this, the priest says. Everything has a purpose. We should be able to find joy in small things. Even if our lives seem miserable to others, if we acknowledge the worth of our lives and importance, we will choose happiness and be victorious in life.

We can see many people who give of themselves to bring light to the world. We should reflect on that. Are you, he concludes, really happy now?  Let us ask ourselves: "I am breathing, for that I can give thanks, and enjoy it to the full, this happiness...."

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