Century-old Wisdom on Happiness

Last month, in a post titled The Happy Life, I wrote about a couple ideas on happiness written in a book published in 1905.

Recently, I received an even older book on the subject. The Duty of Happiness by Sir John Lubbock was published in 1896.

Lubbock book pic
Cover of Lubbock’s Book on Happiness
Photo by M. Fleming

I read the book with interest and discovered three important nuggets of century-old wisdom.

First, there’s a link between happiness and nature.

Nature provides without stint the main requisites of human happiness.

Second—and my wife is also good at reminding me of this—we need to think about how grateful we are. Lubbock writes:

Think how much we have to be thankful for. Few of us appreciate the number of our everyday blessings.

And finally, we have the ultimate choice of how we live.

Few of us, indeed, realize the wonderful privilege of living; the blessings we inherit, the glories and beauties of the Universe, which is our own if we so choose; the extent to which we can make ourselves what we wish to be; or the power we possess of securing peace, of triumphing over pain and sorrow.

Thanks to Sir John Lubbock, when it comes to living fully, I will remember to consider the following: nature, gratitude, and choice.

My Love Affair With Carl

I was first introduced to the ideas of Carl Rogers, the founder of humanistic psychology, when I was in university back in the ’90s. I had a psychology professor who made fun of Rogers and his principles.

These days, if I were to run into that psychology professor, I would strongly disagree with his criticisms. But that psychology professor has probably kicked the bucket by now.

Anyway, after reading On Becoming a Person, I have come to discover that I love Carl Rogers. His philosophy on relationships and personal growth align with insights I have gained from my personal and professional experiences.

Rogers On Becoming
Cover of On Becoming a Person
Photo by M. Fleming

In my personal relationships and in my work with students, I have found that individuals have enormous potential within themselves.

Rogers discovered the same:

Gradually my experience has forced me to conclude that the individual has within himself the capacity and the tendency, latent if not evident, to move forward toward maturity.

Let’s keep moving forward.

My Son Makes Me Cry and My Daughter Makes Me Laugh

We had just finished watching a family movie. All four of us are cuddled on the couch as the credits roll. My 5-year-old son nonchalantly says, “Hey guys, I know which one of us is going to die first,” as he points his finger in my direction.

I’m eating breakfast the next morning when my 6-year-old daughter runs into the kitchen. She says, “Hey dad, I just had a really silly experience.” I ask about her silly experience. She says, “I sneezed and farted at the same time.”

The Happy Life

This past Christmas, my wife gave me things I desperately needed: socks and self-help books.

One book that intrigued me was The Happy Life by Charles W. Eliot. It was published in 1905! My 5-year-old son said, “Dad, that book smells old.”

happy life book cover
Cover of The Happy Life.
Photo by M. Fleming

I was curious to see if any of Eliot’s principles applied in 2019, more than a century after he wrote the book.

Incidentally, most, if not all, of Eliot’s insights still apply today.

Here’s one of my favourite passages:

In trying to enumerate the positive satisfactions which an average man may reasonably expect to enjoy in this world, I of course take no account of those too common objects of human pursuit,—wealth, power, and fame; first, because they do not as a rule contribute to happiness; and secondly, because they are unattainable by mankind in general.

And another:

The most satisfactory thing in all this earthly life is to be able to serve our fellow beings,—first those who are bound to us by love, then the wider circle of fellow-townsmen, fellow-countrymen, or fellow-men.

Wealth, power, and fame do not bring happiness. Loving others does. True in 1905 and still true today.

Nostalgia for Richard Marx and The Importance of Syntax

Ah, it’s great to have memories of a first love.

Her name was Sonia, and she asked me to dance in an elementary school gymnasium years ago. The song? “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx.

So you can imagine the fuzzy feelings that returned when I saw Buddy Daiquiri—played by Richard Marx—in the episode ‘Poison Fire Teats Universe’ of Life in Pieces.

In the episode, Buddy sings “Right Here Waiting.”

My eyes started to tear up.

It was the perfect moment to express my love to my soulmate. But instead of turning to my wife and saying, “There’s nowhere I’d rather be,” I hear myself saying:

I’d rather be nowhere.

It didn’t go over too well…I wonder what Sonia’s up to these days.

Another Letter to No Frills About Another Offensive Ad

Dear No Frills,

Last week I wrote to you expressing my disappointment with one of your print advertisements that contained a derogatory term.

A Letter to No Frills About Offensive Ad

I’m disappointed that I did not receive a response.

This week, I wanted to let you know about another offensive print ad that I saw in the window of my local No Frills supermarket. The ad must be part of your “Perpetuating the Stigma Around Mental Illness” campaign.

Our Social Life Is Nuts
Advertisement in window of local supermarket

Now, I like eating nuts. Except pistachios, of course. One night when I was younger, I ate a lot of pistachios which led to an unfortunate bout of diarrhea. I haven’t eaten pistachios since. Anyway, other than pistachios, I like eating nuts. I do not, however, like seeing the word nuts being used in an offensive way.

I hope you consider pulling this advertisement. When it comes to the stigma around mental health problems, let’s try to reduce it, not preserve it.

A Letter to No Frills About Offensive Ad

Dear No Frills,

I’m happy that you sell bananas. I like bananas.

I once read that if you dress up as a banana and eat a banana, you are a cannibananabal. It’s true. I read it one day on my joke-of-the-day calendar.

Kidding aside, I’m writing to express my disappointment with some of your advertising. I saw this print ad outside of my local No Frills supermarket:

no frills bananas
Advertisement outside local supermarket.

I like the simplicity of your design. Unfortunately, however, your advertisement contributes to the stigma surrounding mental illness. The implied meaning of the word bananas in your pun is a derogatory term and hurtful to many individuals who experience mental illness.

I hope you consider pulling the offensive advertisement.