11 February 2007

WHERE IS HAPPINESS?

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 6:17, 20-26

I recently came across an article entitled “The American Fairy Tale”. Dr. Harold Treffert, director of the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Wisconsin, writes about the prevalent view on happiness in the world today. He enumerates five ideas we commonly and unwittingly subscribe to regarding happiness. Let us go through them briefly and examine if they, too, are our ideas on happiness.

First, happiness is things. The more we have, the happier we are. Too sad for those who have little, they have little happiness too. Disaster for those who have none, they have no happiness at all.

Second, happiness is accomplishments. The more we achieve, the happier we are. Our happiness is directly proportional to our produce. We earn happiness. He who earns less has less happiness. Happiness is being an accomplished person. An accomplished person is one who achieves happiness.

Third, happiness is conformity. The more we are “in”, the happier we are. We should never go against the tide. Those who are different are sad because they are ostracized. It does not matter if they stand for what is true, just and godly. Happiness is found among birds of the same feather that flock together. Conform and be happy. Differ and be sad.

Fourth, happiness is mental health. The fewer problems you have, the happier you will be. And remember: the other name for happiness is carefree. But if problems suddenly confront you, resort to alcohol, drugs, and sex. When problems persist, call a psychologist. Just hope that it is not yet too late.

The fifth idea is very specific to our times: happiness is having and using electronic gadgets. Happiness is literally electrifying! The more you can communicate with the latest mobile phone, the happier you are. The more top of the line your television set is, the happier you are. The more computer literate you are, the happier you are. The more satellite communications your country has, the happier its citizens are.

Are these definitions of happiness ours too? If they are, then we are very much in danger. But it is never too late.

Dr. Treffert’s study shows that these five definitions of happiness are actually myths. They do not give us true happiness. Instead, they make us crazy. Subscribing to all or any of these five prevalent definitions of happiness in the world today is the common cause of mental heath problems. If that is so, where then do we find happiness?

An ancient myth tells a story about happiness. One day, the gods came together for a match. They wanted to prove who among them was the wisest. They agreed to hide happiness from man. Whoever could hide happiness from man would be considered the greatest among them and would enjoy the subservience of the rest of the deities.

One god immediately stood up and took happiness to the deepest sea. At once, man felt the absence of happiness and searched for it. Not too long, he invented the submarine and various underwater vessels and went into the depths of the ocean. There man found happiness.

Another god took happiness from man again and hurled it into the sky, throwing happiness into the infinite outer space. It took some time before man found a way to get happiness back, but he nonetheless found a way how. Having conquered land and sea, man turned his attention to the heavens, not for the divine however. He soon conquered even the outer space with rocket ships, satellites, and inter-galactic missions. This unprecedented achievement made man feel powerful and proud. It was not long before he equated happiness with pride and power.

Another god took the challenge and hid happiness in cyber space. But man was not only able to travel through fiber optics and alike, he also soon transformed cyber reality into virtual reality. His world did not only become smaller; it likewise became home to another species called “anime”. Happiness seemed to be always within man’s reach.

The gods were about to give up. They could not hide happiness from man. Thereupon, someone from nowhere came and gave the divine challenge a last shot. Quietly, the he hid happiness. Where? Not even the other deities knew. Not man too. Do you?

Jesus knows.

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