In the Pursuit of Happiness

In Pursuit of Happiness

In my mind today, I’m pondering happiness. Last Sunday I asked each of my students if they were happy. All but one said yes. Great! So, I asked them, “What makes you happy?” That was tough for them. What about you? Are you happy? If you answer yes, why? What drives your happiness? See. It’s very hard to articulate. It makes you feel like you’re back in Philosophy 101, right? Help me Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates!

Remember the famous line, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness?” Good old Thomas Jefferson borrowed it from John Locke, another philosopher. We all need to pursue happiness in this life, but how? Wealth? Popularity? Achievements?

My students and I are desperately seeking happiness, not Susan. I’m showing my age! I asked my students to try to mindfully do the right thing in each moment of each day during Lent. How do you feel when you choose to be kind to someone who is struggling? How does it feel when you help someone in class or at work? What about when you ask someone about their sick family member and then truly listen? When you let someone go before you in a long line does it make you feel warm and fuzzy when you see the gratitude on their faces? Or if someone is being harassed and you stand up for them do you feel better about the situation? I bet you know the answer. B-I-N-G-O! You are finding the illusive happiness.

Look what I found by another philosopher, “Mencius, a student of Confucius who lived 372-289 BC, believed that people were innately good and that society‚Äôs influence was to blame for bad moral character.” So if we mindfully choose to do the right and honorable thing in our life situations then those actions create goodness in our societies. Goodness is the seed of happiness. Good moral behavior is the cornerstone of good character. Some days I’m like Virginia asking not is there a Santa Claus but where are our good morals? Are they becoming myths as well?

My oldest brother told me recently he was happy. My brother is one of those men born into the world with burdens. He was cursed with uncanny good looks, an amazing personality, intellect, artistic and musically ability, and sadly the gene of addiction. He has struggled his entire 62 earthly years and recently gave in for good to his addictions. He told me he was happy. He was going to unabashedly indulge those passions of chasing a dragon with abandon. I’m sitting here in my wheelchair struggling to survive listening to him throw his life away seeking euphoria through his addictions. My heart literally breaks because he doesn’t know “happiness.” Happiness cannot be found in a bottle, pill, needle, or inhaled. Those euphoric times are temporal, fleeting, and extrinsic. He can’t see “the forest for the trees” and the tree is sitting in front of him in a wheelchair. This tree can’t drive anymore, can’t wipe my own arse, wears diapers, has to be dressed, fed, and put to bed. This tree is so happy with each breath because Sal the Happy Gal knows happiness is intrinsic. It is built of good morals. It is selfless. It has character. It chooses good when maybe bad would benefit my bank account or materialism. That’s happiness. I pray he finds it. That’s the deal kids. It can’t be given; it has to be reckoned within ones soul. I’m so very blessed. There’s nothing like ALS or cancer that jolts you and shakes you to your core. Those terminal diseases are amazing philosophers. They give such clarity in such a chaotic world.

I ask again, “Are you happy?” It’s never too late to pursue happiness. We all have the right. It’s not guaranteed. Let’s begin by building character within ourselves. Choose happiness.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Happy Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”
Kevyn Aucoin

“Every day is a new day, and you’ll never be able to find happiness if you don’t move on.”
Carrie Underwood

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”
Albert Schweitzer

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”
Henry Ward Beecher

 

Adversity

Adversity

In my mind today I’m thinking of adversity. If you’re human, you will have times of adversity. Let’s define adversity: difficulties, misfortune, sorrow, suffering, hardship, woe, and pain. Wow! So many synonyms for one word. I could go on and on. Adversity has no discretion. It can ruin the best of days. It will pop up any place: home, work, church, school, or playgrounds. It could be a health, personal, financial, or spiritual crisis. I know back row students, Ms. Alley sounds like a “Debbie Downer.” It’s true, but there are many lessons and blessings in adversities.

No, I’m not off of my rocker in 2018. During my lesson for Sunday School, we talked about resolutions and making goals for ourselves. We looked at health, academic, personal growth, and relationships. Goals are great. It took a while for Sal the Nutty Professor Gal to realize this in her own life. Goals are things we strive to accomplish in our lives. The key word is strive because old adversity pops up even when we have the best of intentions. What we learn through our struggles is persistence, humility, and gumption. This is our lesson for today. Yes, plans go awry, but we have to find our center and rise above it. So be thankful for adversity.

Each Sunday in class we read about a Saint. Sal the Fruity Teaching Gal calls this the “Saint of the Week!” I get excited reading about saint’s lives because it never ceases to amaze me how they turn such horrendous adversity into something good. This week we read about Thomas Merton. He’s a controversial and colorful saint. He was tested and tried continually about his contemplative thoughts about God. He was a person who thought “out of the box.” This concerned many leaders in the Catholic faith. I admire him because he had gumption, persistence, and humility. He never quit his faith. He knew there was more meaning and purpose for the human life regardless of naysayers. I feel that, too. Even my own children question my faith because of the hand I’ve been dealt with my health. They are still angry at times, but I know God uses everything even terminal illnesses for some type of good. I think the hardest thing in the world is truly letting go and letting God use you. Humans want to control their own destinies. All we can do is try to do more good than harm in our gifted earthly lives.

Before we go, the back row knows what I’m going to say and yes you’re right! Here’s your assignment. Think about you life and strife. Then, find a way to react in a positive way to the hand you’ve been dealt. No troubles at the moment? Lucky you! Now, find a way to give a blessing to the humans who are struggling. We are a team of humans. There is no us versus them. This is it. WE have to work together to be the helpers, healers, and hosts of the true light of the Holy Spirit. Remember adversity is a wonderful teacher. Are you teachable?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Embrace Adversity Gal

Dedicated to all of those who support Sal the ALS Gal through prayers, friendship, medical bills, and love. You want me here longer and for that I’m so humbled.

Quotes of the Day:
All by Thomas Merton
“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.”

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”

“We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others.”