The satirist Malcolm Muggeridge said of happiness:
“Where, then, does happiness lie? In forgetfulness, not indulgence, of the self. In escape from sensual appetites, not in their satisfaction. We live in a dark, self-enclosed prison, which is all we see or know if our glance is fixed ever downward. To lift it upward, becoming aware of the wide, luminous universe outside this alone is happiness.”
His words seem both pessimistic and somewhat anachronistic, and appear to reflect a time before the forces of secularism and liberation helped wipe away much of the guilt associated with the pleasures of the body and mind. But if his point is about the toxicity of addiction. whether it be to drugs, alcohol, food, sex, money (.i.e. love of …the root of, rather than application and use of money) and the debilitating negativity of over arching self-indulgence he has exactly that; a point.
Muggeridge continues: “At its highest level, such happiness is the ecstasy that mystics have inadequately described. At more humdrum levels, it is human love; the delights and beauties of our dear earth, its colours and shapes and sounds; the enchantment of understanding and laughing, and all other exercise of such faculties as we possess; the marvel of the meaning of everything, fitfully glimpsed, inadequately expounded, but ever-present.”
The following is the text of “Prayer for the day” from Friday, 6th July 2012 written and delivered by Alison Murdoch. It expresses a belief in a simple thing that we can do to produce and spread happiness; be grateful.
When did you last write a Thank you letter? My childhood memories are full of them. After Birthday’s and whenever I had been to a party and in bulk during the week after Christmas.
Perhaps I am exaggerating it wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed. But gratitude was definitely drilled into us. We were also taught to say Thank you after meals and sometimes beforehand in the form of grace.
The scientific expert on gratitude is currently a professor of psychology in California, called Robert Emins. His research suggests that conscious acts of Thankfulness, such as keeping a gratitude diary, will have a powerful effect not only on our emotional, but even our physical health.
And there is a website www.gratefulness.org which describes the different ways that gratitude can boost happiness. Such as increasing self-esteem, resilience and the wish to help others; and offers tools and inspiration to achieve this.
From a Buddhist point of view all this makes perfect sense. Gratitude, like kindness and generosity, is a positive emotion because it makes us and others feel good.
Take a moment to think of something you’re grateful for, and you can literally observe your eyes soften and your muscles relax. In contrast have you ever said “mmm I did enjoy being jealous yesterday?”.
Gratitude also makes us more aware of the deep connections between us all, and therefore of our shared responsibility for the welfare of each other, and of our planet.
Before we go to sleep tonight I wonder if we can revisit that old fashion habit of saying Thank You. Let’s pray through nurturing our ability to be grateful we can nurture our ability to build a better world.
Alison Murdoch here I believe expressed a thought which could lead to a new way – for many a genuinely better way of coping and interacting with the world – not just a thought for the Day. Well if we don;t reach for the stars…..