A Deeper Happiness

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People often ask about how to obtain happiness, but I do not try to pass myself off as a soap opera expert on this. Both St. Paul and Buddha said, ďWork out your own salvation with diligence.Ē I think the same care, effort and intelligence involved in diligence needs to be applied towards happiness. But I am convinced there can be little of the deeper happiness without salvation. It should touch you for a time with peace and joy.
The only thing I know that will give more than a touch of happiness to everyone is a personal walk with God. Whoever says he or she has or had even a sometimes walk with God but derived no moments of deeper happiness from it, then whatever whoever walked with, it was not the God of grace that I have experienced.
 
I am often asked by young people if I have had a happy life. I think young people like to ask this of older people. They are exploring. When I say, ďYes, I have had a happy life,Ē then they ask me why I think I have had a happy life. (Then I begin to wonder if I look pitiful and should have remembered to have my suit pressed.) Finally having fielded this question so often from the younger folk, I began to think on it more deeply.
 
After perusing this subject of my happiness in my mind for some time, I decided I have been happy mainly because I have been able to do competent work that I liked to do, which also seemed to help some, for those I have loved or have been genuinely concerned over.
 
I have been able to preach, teach and write for those people I have cared for and been truly interested in. To be fair there have been some exceptions to this. I have been called upon to teach at times some of the most obnoxious students imaginable. Fortunately these were few and far between. I have had also to deal with some low, mean and terribly clubby church people. Since the churches are in the fallen state they are in today, there is a good deal more of that than one would like to think. But these insignificant exceptions to my greater happiness have only shown me how much happiness can be in giving happiness or aid to others.
 
I believe I have led a happy life although Socrates advised to count no man happy until he was dead. If you followed Socratesí advice, then you withhold judgment on your happiness until youíre dead when you canít talk about it anyway. His advice applies to the judgments others make but how does anyone outside you know how you felt in your soul? It is essential to any fair evaluation of your happiness to know how you felt inside. So go away, Socrates. Youíre not reasoning too well today. You need some common sense in the pot.
 
If judgment went by appearance after death, how would Socrates be judged.? He said himself he was the ugliest man in Athens. So if we went by appearances after death, he might be termed ugly and therefore be judged as unhappy by shallow standards. How ridiculous. Such was not the case. We are left through Plato insights into the soul of Socrates shown by recording his reasoning and his concern for justice, truth and the covenant of the commonwealth. It is the interior life, the state of the soul, the light within us that only we as individuals really truly know that must and will be at the heart of our happiness. Judgment is impossible without it.
 
Would we judge a church by the exterior only? No, we must go inside to hear the organ that plays, the choir that sings, the preacher who is the conscience of the church. We must get the feeling of the congregation. How does everything fit? Judging a person after he is dead by appearances is like evaluating a church when you have never been to a service. It is what goes on within and in the interior life that counts. It establishes the tone of the life there. You must look into the heart and the soul to see what goes on there.
 
If you are going to consider happiness, then you must consider the happiness that comes from the interior spiritual person. Happiness comes from the soul. The soul comes from God. Other people are the ďstand insĒ or surrogates of God. When you do it unto the least of these, you do it to God. When there is harmony between God, other people and your soul, you are listening to the vibrations of the soul. The link is harmonious creativity between what you do to yourself, others and God. The interchange of these creates a harmony or harmonious vibrations that touch the chords of your being. They create a deeper happiness.
 
I contrast the deeper happiness of harmonious divine vibrations among people to the shallower happiness but temporary moments of true happiness that can be found in ordinary life. But the deeper happiness comes from living and experiencing the harmonious touching vibrations which we create when yoked with God and seeing others as ďstand-insĒ for God.
 
I wish you well of ordinary happiness, but it is a passing thing. Life takes it quickly. A death, a divorce, an accident may end it. But the deeper vibrations of divine happiness in a harmonious relationship between yourself and God that includes doing for others you love is a lasting happiness that is formed with God. You have to create with God this deeper happiness. But be sure to consider the deeper happiness when you try to formulate your happiness in this life. You need some deeper happiness to fulfil life so that you have inside of you the divine shining.
 
To do this you do not need to be perfect. No matter how imperfect anyone is, they can work with God. You have to do it as you can. No one expects finite people to do everything. You will never be all things to all people, but the fact is you can be something to some. That is what God asks. Do your share. Leave the rest to divine Providence. I have had deeper happiness but I have certainly not been perfect.
 
I would have no one believe I was able to like or love everybody. I am quite human. I found some nauseating when I first met them and they were still nauseating when I left them. I served them as best I could. I have preached to the spiritually dead of the church lined up in pews as cold as coffin rows. I might as well have preached to cabbages.
 
I have preached to some who gave new meaning to the word, ignorance, and to the literal who were as dead to moral complexities and spiritual nuances as stumps. If I lied to say that I loved them all, I would be setting a new low in hypocrisy. Only God can love everybody. He is bigger than we are. The rest of us must love as we can while we serve as we must.
 
People have also asked me if as a preacher, my consciousness of my sins did not overwhelm and ruin my life. Well, actually, no. My feeling is God has forgiven my sins through grace. That feeling is one of the moments of joy that come from experiencing salvation. As for sin, I think Iíve done my share of sin, but Iím not one for dramatizing my efforts. I am not a really first class sinner. I have no difficulty hurting people at first when I am angry, but then I begin to feel bad about it over the long pull. So I give up the effort. I even get disgusted with myself for giving up the effort. But there it is. I canít feel it and then I am no good at doing it. So I give the angry effort up. Iím not sure if this is grace or laziness but I become indifferent and forget it.
 
Yet I may say that there has been enough I could do, however imperfect I may be, for many I cared about and sometimes loved that the substance of my life has been deeply satisfying. My friends and family add to this by saying that I tend to hum anthems, old hymns or pieces from Mozart, Bach or Gilbert and Sullivan as I make my writing and speaking notes.
 
My family sees me sitting at my desk humming as I do my sermon notes. They smile at me. They say the buzzing reminds them of a big black attired bumble bee going from flower to shrub . They are much amused by my subconscious humming as I arrange my thoughts. Yet I am rarely conscious of this inner music as it is produced by me. It is probably the outward sign of an inward grace that means happiness. After all I believe I am a happy man. I feel harmonious vibrations. As the hymn goes, it is well with my soul.
 
After my thoughts were formed on this, one day while reading Swedenborg, the Swedish visionary, I discovered him writing that in one of his visions of heaven he saw the inhabitants did what they liked to do for ones they loved. This gave the people in heaven some of the great joy and happiness they deserved. My life has not been a heaven on earth of course but I understood immediately what Swedenborg was getting at.
 
I would contrast what Swedenborg envisioned in heaven with much of our confused society of today where many miserable and demoralized humans are doing what they do badly and resentfully for substitute bosses they donít like who are hired by selfish owners to be morally abhorred. The workers are doing what they donít like because they feel stuck for money. They are not bad but shallow, confused and stuck in a non-spiritual world-view.
 
I suggest from my personal experience, scripture, as well as the vision of the noted Swedenborg, you should consider a deeper happiness in trying to find your happiness. Try to position yourself where you can do or spend some time doing what you enjoy and are reasonably good at for those you love or genuinely care about. That would be a spiritual effort that helps to create a happy life and a good one that you may look back on later with profound pleasure. For the truth is finding a sustaining happiness wisely considers good attitudes, good values, doing for others and spiritual awareness.
 
The materialists are wrong, of course, when they say the answer to all questions is money, money and more money. To say money will make happiness is nonsense. Money must be considered in life but it doesnít have to be an object of worship which it is in the nation and world today. Neither should it be obsessed over as the first priority. If you work only for money, you are a poor worker. If you see every problem to be answered by money, you are a fool keeping better qualified thinkers from the problem.
 
One of the good points of capitalism is that money can be accumulated and that money can be used as the basis of your moral freedom to do right. It is very difficult to make the right moral decisions for anyone without some economic security. Saints can do it on nothing but most need more. And this is no criticism of them. Those who have some economic security have a foundation for the possible exercise of moral and spiritual freedom others may lack. They also have a basis for doing good that others may lack.
 
But how many of those pushing for more and more money want it for some rightful reason? The ones I find pushing for more and more money are often pushing for more of the stuff to do what nonsense is made of. The money pushers do not seem to desire money as a basis for the exercise of purer values or a higher moral betterment than that widely available to the unthinking, the poor and the ignorant. Few want money to do good for others. That is unless you define doing good as keeping up with the Jones who are indulging in the status vanities of the morally insecure and confused.
 
Often the pushers like to indulge in conspicuous consumption of the type Thorstein Veblen wrote of. It comes from a shallow and insecure vanity. It is rooted in a spiritually immature desire to show off their things for others rather than cooperate with others. That is not what this new century needs.
 
The rule of thumb that can be said of those driven to make more money as the goal of happiness is usually the more they make, the more they spend. Money merely magnifies the moral idiot dwelling in them as well as all of us. Everlasting misery for them exists where contentment should be. Happiness is always the next purchase away. When that purchase is obtained, happiness is gone, because the next purchase has now advanced to be the center of the stage, the new dream of happiness.
 
Are many people this stupid? Yes, Iím afraid so. Definitely the materialists who make up the majority of the nation are, because their lives are created of an unbalanced desire to achieve material things because material things are all they believe really exists. Chasing things must be their chief pleasure.
 
Such lives are spent in a fevered materialism. They do not know the Biblical principles that show where to draw the line on material goods. How could they? Their lives are hallucinations about the things they can buy and the consequent silly and almost hillbilly fantasies about what they think the things they buy will do for them. How pathetic. Usually things donít turn out very happily for such folk.
 
To be spiritually void irrationally chasing vanishing mirages of commercially sold happiness is to be reduced to a satirical level of existence. Into this satire of life is where unfortunately more and more people of today must be placed. Their minds are where the things are. Their outlooks are on a level with advertising, which largely affects them. Can anything lower in either motivation or aspiration be said of anyone?
 
I wonder on their death beds what goes through the minds of these materialists? They donít know any Bible verses for they have looked down on them. If justice exists, they hear the advertising slogans by which they have lived as they die. The yuppies hear elite advertisements for Volvo. The not so elite hear the cutie jingle commercials that advertise Coca-cola.
 
If these materialists ever had any happiness, it was a superficial state coming from the very temporary high of possession of expensive inanimate things. Things satisfied them. They were shallow and in their social relations they were usually content with the sick envy of their brand named things by lesser folk. They lived only to die as ever on the bottom rung of the spiritual evolution of mankind in A Stone Age Of Advertising.
 
If you are considering happiness, then be more spiritually sophisticated about life than the literal and non-thinking who see the prize of life as brand names and temporary biological triumphs. It is far better to consider dreams of deeper happiness aiming towards doing what you like for those you love. Be good for something and then do it for somebody you care about.
 
If you are really doing what you like for those you love or genuinely have concern about, you may come to like what you do more, because it is done for the ones you cherish. This is a matter of a spiritual insight to remember in your thinking. Spiritual awareness should be a part of your search for happiness.
 
There are other variations on this theme. If you do not do much of anything well, and if you are a graduate of some of our irreligious public schools, I realize this is not all your fault. But if you practice and study doing something well, enough study and practice will make you better at it.
 
As you become better at something, you will be likely to do it more, and as you do more, you become even better. Eventually you become really good at something. Then you will probably find you really enjoy doing it. You will find you have a good skill or work that will serve you well. You then have a tool truly to glorify God with. You will also enjoy using it.
 
There is also the truth that if you do not have anyone you love or care about at the other end of your work effort, you can either find others you care about to work with or you can learn to love the people you now have to work with. This may be difficult, and there will probably always be some you donít love, but what of it? All that has to be done is find enough you can love or care for to make you feel satisfied in doing your work for or on them.
 
In figurative terms this is something like the pleasure children get from a game of see-saw. It has to be carefully weighted on both sides. One must know how to do the work competently or better on one side. On the other side it is applied to those you love or care about. Interest swings both ways. You are concerned in both areas.
 
The fact is it is no matter which side happens to be up: competence or love. One side reinforces the other. In that is the pleasure and the fun. When you are down, the other side is up. Each interest helps the other go up and go down while in the swing back and forth every now and then is found the very satisfying feeling of being balanced in life. The work you love to express covers those you love to express it on.
 
Swedenborg felt this feeling was truly heavenly. It is one of the great feelings of the spiritually matched bright Kingdom of God. It is a spiritual unity. The pieces spiritually fit together. It brings a deeper kind of happiness that many have never known. Faith has ever known it. Consider the need to include a place for a spiritual kind of deeper happiness in your thinking as you search for happiness.
 

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Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.

 

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