On Happiness

You ever think about happiness? I guess this is a subject that dominates many people’s thinking but it generally did not enter my mind much in the past. But I started thinking about happiness more because of an extraordinary woman I met in South Africa a few months ago.

I was walking through the outskirts of Soweto … through a shanty-town … when I met a nice woman. Even though she had a few teeth missing, she had a big smile and was very welcoming. She invited us into her home … this was a tiny one-room 100 sq foot tin home with a tin roof … and the first thing I noticed was that it was … immaculate. Absolutely immaculate …

And she was proud of her home.

And she showed me the two beds in her home. Beds were small … tiny … she shared one bed with her daughter and her two sons (both teenagers) shared the other. But she was bragging to me about her home.

Her block (with about 45 other tin homes) just went from just one porta potty to three porta potties. And their block just got a tap for water (they used to have to walk three blocks for water but now their entire block can share one tap). Progress … and she was happy.

And she was happy with what she had … it was not that she was living in ignorance. From her home you could see the highway where all these Mercedes Benzes were cruising … and just 10 miles away in Johannesburg are some of the richest homes in world … and just 2 miles away (a nice walk) are the really nice areas of Soweto with Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu have homes …

But she was still very happy.

So … I thought to myself … I can never complain. We are the Blessed Class.

But more than that … I decided right there and then that I would only associate with other people that are happy. So I have a new rule:

If you are unhappy you better have a good excuse for being unhappy.

That’s right. If your mom dies … you should be unhappy for a time. If you got dumped from a long relationship … shed some tears. You got fired from your dream job? Yes, you too can be unhappy for a limited time.

But …

But … if the waiter serves you a side of French fries instead of the mashed potatoes you ordered … you can’t get unhappy. If a friend shows up late to dinner … you’re still happy. The cable company double-bills you for your pay-per-view movie … yup, still happy. If you’re a little hungry, a little cold, your shoes gave you a blister, your favorite TV show got cancelled, the Yankees lose a game, someone spills red wine on your new shirt … you’re happy …

As I wrote last year, for us, the blessed class, it is essentially immoral for us to be unhappy

7 thoughts on “On Happiness

  1. Anonymous

    While in theory I completely understand and appreciate what you’re saying, I think you’re wrong with your assessment of happiness.
    Happiness is relative and the reference point is typically the social context that surrounds an individual. It is not the lowest common denominator of the global society (not yet at least – we’re not THAT connected).

  2. Anonymous

    Kudos to the first comment.
    Happiness is made up of so many things and the scale against which you define it changes from person to person; because she is happy with what little she has (another judgement that no one can make but her) doesn’t make it immoral for someone to be unhappy with “more.”
    Therein lies the conundrum… who are you to decide what that scale should be? Who decides what is less and what is more?

  3. Nichol Bradford

    A, I agree with you. Happiness is a choice. And I choose it. Things don’t have to be “right” for me to be happy. I also understand that most of our lives exist within our minds. I think its 30% the “physics” of what we do and 70% the way we think and feel about what we do. My biggest role model in that is Vicktor Frankel who understood that a man can control his mind even if he cannot control his surroundings. I also believe in the law of attraction – like attracts like – and I want joy, bliss, love, happiness, forgiveness and humor in my life – so that’s what I try to put out there. I have my moments, but that’s where I mostly reside.

  4. anonymous

    Emotions are what they are–fleeting, intense, contradictory, surprising. Trying to mandate them seems to stifle the passion in ones life. That said sometimes happiness is a choice.

  5. Margaret James

    Sometimes I wonder who is really the “blessed class”. We have so much stuff, we worry about it all and we expect so much more. When each thing you receive seems like a gift – that is being part of the “blessed class”. It is a state of being.

  6. kristin

    Nichol said it. Happiness is a choice. Life happens in our mind, and so we have it in our power to think happy, kind, loving, abundant, thankful thoughts no matter what happens around us. The thing to remember when it’s tempting to let anything (another person) “make” us unhappy, whatever it is that has inconvenienced us or bothered or tested us had absolutely nothing to do with us, as that person is, like us, an entire entity in and of themself and not just a satellite in our own orbit.


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