Susan's Thursday morning note April 18, 2013
The Art of Happiness by William Ogden (NYT Column 1945)
Michel, Michel by Robert Lewis (WW2 battle of a young child between France and Israel)
Good morning! Dare I write that when the winds are strong and there is ice and snow out the front door? There’s got to be something good about this morning…yes…my perfect cup of filler with a little coffee added in with a little yodeler on a big red dog wheeling behind me. The angel of dawn at least afforded me this one luxury today to appreciate and be aware of the goodness of this gift I’ve been handed. Moments ahead today.
I am slowly reading a book called Michel, Michel, by Robert Lewis. I am not yet far enough into this to write very much for you, but am curious if any of you have read this. It is on a legal battle after WW2 for a Jewish boy that was hidden by a French Catholic nun. The book is on the battle for his guardianship when the war is over and his parents have died. A battle between relatives in another country and his protector in France. There is one line that has stayed in my mind all week that I believe you will like to think about. Mme. Rose, the nun who has raised the young boy, is sitting before her mirror one evening…She sighed. It was late…Her image stared back at her in the mirror: the full, serious face, soft and unlined, except for the double vertical marks between the eyebrows, where life had bitten into her with its heartaches…I loved that line!!! Yes, the two lines I always see when I look in the mirror and try to spread out to remember what I looked like before they arrived…and now this realization that they are part of who I am. A bite from life. A bite from heartache. This didn’t depress me. I found the line beautiful. They are there because I have lived. Have lived with the beauty of life that causes some of my wrinkles from smiling, and have lived with the heartache of life which has bitten into my forehead leaving these two marks. Love this picture!
This week Stu showed me an article written in 1945 for the New York Times on happiness. On our pursuit of happiness through material possessions or positions. This was written by William Ogden after coming back to the United States after the war. He wrote on his realization that so many were extremely unhappy, angry, and bitter about their lot in life. He noticed more acutely the emphasis on possessions and jobs, instead of on personal qualities. Here is his writing on the idea of how we must make our own happiness; how this is something that cannot be bought.
“The Art of Happiness” by William Ogden
December 30, 1945
New York Times
There was never a time when so much official effort was being expended to produce happiness, and probably never a time when so little attention was paid by the individual to creating the personal qualities that make for it. What one misses most today is the evidence of widespread personal determination to develop a character that will in itself, given any reasonable odds, make for happiness. Our whole emphasis is on the reform of living conditions, of increased wages, of controls on the economic structure – the government approach – and so little on man improving himself.
The ingredients of happiness are so simple that they can be counted on one hand. Happiness comes from within, and rests most securely on simple goodness and clear conscience. Religion may not be essential to it, but no one is known to have gained it without a philosophy resting on ethical principles. Selfishness is its enemy; to make another happy is to be happy one’s self. It is quiet, seldom found for long in crowds, most easily won in moments of solitude and reflection. It cannot be bought; indeed, money has very little to do with it.
No one is happy unless he is reasonable well satisfied with himself; so that the quest for tranquility must of necessity begin with self-examination. We shall not often be content with what we discover in this scrutiny. There is so much to do, and so little done. Upon this searching self-analysis, however, depends the discovery of those qualities that make each man unique, and whose development alone can bring satisfaction.
Of all those who have tried, down the ages, to outline a program for happiness, few have succeeded so well as William Henry Channing, chaplain of the House of Representatives in the middle of the last century:
“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy…to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to the stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never; in a word to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.” It will be noted that no government can do this for you; you must do it for yourself.
A few years ago I began a journal I’ve entered quotes that are meaningful to me. I glanced into the treasury yesterday morning and read this line that stayed with me throughout the day. “Chinese pictograph for busyness – heart killing.” I kept repeating that in my mind. Picturing what I was doing with “busyness” – Life. Our beautiful gift. The moving clock. Richard Paul Evans wrote in The Christmas Box a journal entry where he is watching his young son across the room. He wishes he could stop the moment. He then goes on to write that if he stopped the moment he would stop the song. Life. Our song. Movements in our songs. Fast, slow, sad, excited…the song continues to play for eternity. Can we notice some of the individual notes and appreciate their beauty? Can we realize that some notes may seem extremely harsh, but that overall they contribute to the beautiful piece of music our composer wrote? Tonight we will have the chance to write the notes from our song today. Will we add rests? Will we continue playing even if we hit a harsh measure?
Thank you for letting me enter your Thursday. I hope you can blow in for our Spring Fling this weekend (grin). Will you bring a friend? You are truly the reason we are here & I can’t thank you enough for your constant encouragement and business. Have a beautiful end of the week. The birds are trying to sing, competing with the winds. Determined to continue to sing for us. Susan
Latin for this week:
gaudium - happiness
Hic habitat felicitas - Here dwells happiness.
Laetificus Letificus - gladdening, joyous, spreading happiness
Evans, Richard Paul. The Christmas Box Collection. New York. Simon & Schuster. 1998.
Lewis, Robert. Michel, Michel. New York. Simon & Schuster. 1968.
Watson, Lillian Eichler, Editor. Light from Many Lamps: A Treasury of Inspiration. New York. Simon & Schuster. 1951.