The Secret to True Happiness (and not a Joke!)

❝I scored top 10 in a math contest, won over 200 awards for (mumble), on the side took a language aptitude test and scored (mumble)… have appeared on the Zipper, appeared on TV, made front page news the the county newspaper, (mumble mumble, mumble)…❞

A lot of things that people run after are things that won’t make you happy even if you get everything you are trying for.

Rule #1: Money doesn’t make you happy.

Rule #2: Beauty doesn’t make you happy.

Rule #3: Smarts don’t make you happy.

Rule #4: Fame doesn’t make you happy.

Rule #5: If you know that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you are in a position to really and truly profit, and get things greater than mere money could ever amount to.

(Did I mention that you’ll find all sorts of nasty things happening if you actually succeed at making your neighbors green with envy?)

One author made the rather startling claim that the chief advantage of riches is that they do not make you happy. Perhaps people who struggle to make ends meet will be happier to genuinely have enough wealth, but it is easy to succumb to the illusion of, “If only I had enough money, that would make me happy.” Add enough wealth, and the pain may still be there but the illusion is gone. When you have acquired practically everything you want, both luxury and status symbol, that illusion can no longer be taken seriously. If you are poor, you can more easily miss the point that you need something more than money. Rich and poor alike need to dig deeper: but the rich more easily see through that illusion for what it is and nothing more.

I stand in the position of seeing through a different, but one very similar: the illusion of talent as any sort of universal cure to the problems of human life. It doesn’t make a person better, or kinder, or more loving as a human being.

I need something much bigger than talent can pull off. And it is not just I who doesn’t have enough talent for that.

I need, in short, humility.

As far as I can tell, the single biggest treasure of virtue that is mention in the Philokalia is humility. Humility is a body all working together well; humility is scales falling from eyes. It is also notorious to pin it down, although the humblest I’ve known have done perfectly without pinning such things down. I wished to respond to one horrid poem, “Invictus;” having cut back at an urge to write a torrent of words about how lovely humility is, how useful, how noble, how beautiful, how secure!

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstanceu
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

I wish to say more than how learning at Toastmasters is helping me grow and live giving me something as a human being that advanced degrees from leading institutions did not, and only humility has the key to open that treasure chest. However, there is a time to write a book, a time to write an article, and a time to write a social media post.

In my reply I hold on to the high falutin’ language, but change the direction where things part. I wrote:

“Invictus,” sent back for revisions and extended some degree of Professional Courtesy

Out of the pitch black of my sin and vice,
Chosen only of my own free will,
I thank the God beyond all knowing
For my yet still fighting soul.

In the cunning net of His Providence,
I have spurned kindnesses for my good,
Gifts I have fought as chance left me,
Bloodied, but more deeply bowed:

Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?
It hurteth thee to kick against the goads.

Beyond this life of pleasure and pain,
Lie the Gates of Heaven and Hell,
Battered I still make my choice,
Seeking neither to bolt nor bar,
From inside, the gates of Hell.

Narrow is the path and strait the gate:
The entrance to Glory beyond,
All trials and tests named in the scroll,
Thy Grace my wounds have bound with salve.

I thank the ranks of men made gods,
Who cheer me on to join their choir,
Thou blessest me beyond any fate,
That I could ever know to ask.

Thy Glory is to transfigure me,
To Live, Thou Thyself:
I am the Master of my Fate!
I am the Captain of my Soul!

(And I know what that means!)

And one last comment:
There is nowhere that you can go that God will not be with you.
There is no suffering or pain that God will never understand.
He loves you; he made you.