For there's happiness as well as care.
The word happiness came from the root hap, which means "that which happens, or comes suddenly, or unexpectedly." Thus again the fact is brought before us that the pictures in words, as revealed by their root-meaning, are always more sharply de fined and more exact than the notions are that we entertain about them.
Manifestly then, the happy man is he who takes things as they come, without disturb ance. He knows that happiness does not in here in things and conditions, but in the atti tude of mind toward things and conditions.
It is then, the essential duty of us all so to relate ourselves to our desires and to the objects of environment that they do not control the mind in us, but that the mind in us con trols them.
There is another interesting word in Eng lish; delight, meaning to entice, to allure; in fact, to snare and to trap.
Are we to forego happiness and delight be cause we are enticed and snared by that which happens suddenly or unexpectedly? To an swer this we have only to remember that a shield has two sides, and that neither side alone constitutes the whole shield. Then we shall comprehend the full significance of the pictures revealed to us in these two words, and we can proceed to be as happy and as delighted as we desire.
Few significant men go through life free from the attraction of things; that is, unaf fected by what lies outside of themselves. The desire to possess what we do not own, the be lief that with this or that change of condition we should be happier, or at least more con tented, is common to us all. And it seems quite right that it should be so. Let us, by all means, have more and better things and conditions. The fact that they exist is an in dication that we may have them. The bless ings of poverty have been over-emphasized. There are few blessings in poverty; but there is one; it has stimulated many a man to es cape from it. Again, the lowly life has been sung beyond its merits. The dweller therein may very rightly, indeed, crave better things; he may very justly believe that if he were differently situated and possessed more he would be better off.
The one necessary fact, however, to keep in mind in this attitude toward poverty, as well as toward the richer things of life, is this: a man is never enriched by mere possession. He may be enriched by what he learns from things, or by his disposal of them for the good of others, but he cannot increase in happiness by mere undisputed possession. To secure the true and permanent gift from things and con ditions is to grasp the spirit in them for the purpose of awakening the spirit in us. Hence one is as truly happy as he is spiritually alive, for things and conditions contribute then their lofty essence to him.
After a while he will become inquiring and discriminating; he will not crave that in which a lofty essence (or state of being) is not to be found. In our current sense of the word he will be happy because he does not misunder stand. Even sorrow, affliction, and the suffer ing of himself and of others, in so far as they call him out to succor and to comfort, become instruments and means for awakening happi ness in him.
The deduction seems simple; the truly happy man is he with the understanding heart, for so equipped he does not misread; and when a man reads aright he places just values.
Now unhappiness, as we see it every day about us comes from misreading values. Many a case will present itself that seems to disprove this; but once we begin to read life more deeply, the more this truth shines forth.
There are few of us who cannot agree with Seneca, and say, "Calamity turns to our ad vantage; and great ruins make way for great er glories." And, again, with von Humboldt : "It is worthy of special notice that when we are not too anxious about happiness and un happiness, but devote ourselves to strict and unsparing performance of duty, then happi ness comes of itself—nay, even springs from the midst of a life of troubles and anxieties, and privations." And why is this true? Because the soul active, sees truth, knows it, and avoids placing false values. Now happiness lies essentially in true values. Riches and great possessions may serve for a short time or a long time, but a day is sure to come when a man has re ceived from them all they have to give. When that day comes let him have faith and move on. Better things await him.
Probably no man has contributed to litera ture a more simple and direct statement of the right attitude towards life than the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. The one theme constantly recurring in his Meditations, is, "do not misread appearances." Beset with the af fairs of state at home, often absent with the army in distant provinces, he yet found now and again a moment or two for contemplation. And invariably he concludes, let the condition that appeared before him be what it may, that the whole duty of man is not to be affected by outward circumstances, but to be the serene judge of them.
"What use," he asks, "do I put my soul to? It is a sensible question this, and should fre quently be put to oneself. How does my ruling part stand affected? "Outward objections cannot take hold of the soul, nor force their passage into her, nor set any of her wheels going. The impressions come from herself, and it is her own motions which affect her. Confine the im pressions to their respective quarters, and let your mind keep her distance." Everywhere throughout the text of this re markably intimate book, one finds a sublime philosophy simply expressed; a philosophy that reveals a character at once patient, in quiring and contemplative. His philosophy is as practical as that of Franklin.
"The best way of revenge," he writes, "is not to imitate the injury." "Nothing that does not enter my mind, and get within me, can hurt me." "The true worth of a man is to be measured by the objects he pursues." "It is high time that you have something more divine in you than the mechanism of pas sion, (and) the wires of a puppet." The Meditations of the Emperor were penned a line or two now and then. They were, without doubt, never intended for pub lication, they formed the Emperor's common place book. By this means he seems to have drawn up gradually his own declaration of mental and spiritual independence, seeking happiness through the contemplation that brings with it what Solomon so much desired ; namely, the understanding heart.