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Happiness

( Originally Published 1879 )

WRITERS of every age have endeavored to show that pleasure is in us and not in the object offered for our amusement. If the soul be happily disposed, everything becomes capable of affording entertainment, and distress will almost want a name.

The fountain of content must spring up in the mind, and he who seeks happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the griefs which he purposes to remove.

Man is, in all respects, constituted to be happy. Hence it is that he sees goodness around him in proportion to the goodness that is within him; and it is also for this reason that when he calls the evil that is within him outside of him it also appears so. If man, there-fore, chooses that which does not seem to him good, he can, in a measure, enjoy it. One of the most evident differences between the enjoyment of what is good and true and that which is false and evil, is that the first leaves something to be re-enjoyed in memory and after life, while the latter leaves regret, disappointment and suffering.

Great part of the infelicity of men arises not so much from their situations or circumstances as from their pride, vanity and ambitious expectations. In order to be happy, these dispositions must be subdued; we must always keep before our eyes such views of the world as shall prevent our expecting more from it than it is designed to afford. We destroy our joys by devouring them beforehand with too eager expectation. We ruin the happiness of life when we attempt to raise it too high. Menedemus being told one day that it was a great felicity to have whatever we desire, " Yes," said he, "but it is a much greater to desire nothing but what we have."

The idea has been transmitted from generation to generation that happiness .is one large and beautiful precious stone—a single gem, so rare that all search after it is all vain effort, for it is fruitless and hopeless. It is not so. Happiness ,is a mosaic, composed of many smaller stones. Each taken apart and viewed singly may be of little value, but when all are grouped together and judiciously combined and set, they form a pleasing and graceful whole, a costly jewel.

Trample not under foot then the little pleasures which a gracious Providence scatters in the daily path while in eager search after some great and exciting joy. We are so apt to overlook little things and our own mind, and look for happiness in large external matter; but we find it not.

If you go to the creature to make you happy, the earth will tell you that happiness grows not in the furrows of the fields; the sea that it is not in the treasures of the deep; cattle will say, "It is not on our backs;" crowns will say, "It is too precious a gem to be found In us." We can adorn the head, but we cannot satisfy the heart. Happiness is in us, not in things.

If happiness consisted in things only, there would be no end to the numberless kinds of it. It was in this point of view that the erudite Roman writer, Varro,

enumerated seven hundred sorts of happiness. So, also, the learned Turkish doctor, Ebn Abbas, maintained that the number of grievous sins is about seven hundred, thus balancing the accounts between good and ill.

We talk of wealth, fame and power as undeniable sources of enjoyment, and limited fortune, obscurity and insignificance as incompatible with felicity. It is thus that there is a remarkable distinction between acquisitions and conditions, theoretically considered, and practically proved. However brilliant in speculation, wealth, fame and power, are found in possession impotent to confer felicity. However decried in prospect, limited fortunes, obscurity, insignificance, are by experience proved most friendly to human happiness. Le Droz, who wrote a treaty upon happiness, describes the conditions necessary for it, as consisting of the greatest fortitude to resist and endure the ills and pains of life, united with the keenest sensibility to enjoy its pleasures and delights.

"Health, peace and competence," is a popular definition of happiness. Yet thousands, and tens of thousands, possess these great blessings and are not happy, nay, will not allow that they have the means to be happy. Madame de Stael, in her " Delphine," defines happiness to consist in the absence of misery. How many human beings are without one single real evil, and yet complain of their fate.

There is so little real happiness on earth because we seek it not aright—we seek it where it is not, in out-ward circumstance and external good, and neglect to seek it, where alone it dwells, in the close chambers of the bosom. We would have a happiness in time, independent of eternity; we would have it independent of the Being whose it is to give; and so we go forth, each one as best we may, to seek out the rich possession for ourselves. But disappointment attends every step in the pursuit of happiness, until we seek it where alone it can be found. The original curse is still resting upon us. The cherubim, with their flaming swords, still guard the gates of Paradise, and no man enters therein.

"But foolish mortals still pursue
False happiness in place of true ;
A happiness we toil to find,
Which still pursues us like the wind."



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