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By Jim Kempton
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” — Oscar Wilde
What is happiness? Is it the same for everyone, and can we bring it on ourselves?
Is it only, “Nothing more than good health and a bad memory,” as Albert Einstein maintained? And who said money can’t buy happiness, anyway? The women I know claim that whomever said that simply didn’t know where to shop.
One thing seems sure: lots of rich people must have missed the shopping uplift; many of the world’s wealthiest families are rife with suicides, drug overdoses, failed marriages and massive depression. In some cases, it seems like the richer one gets, the more expensive happiness becomes. And no matter what size the bank account, pain is no more preventable or buffered when a parent loses a child or disease strikes down a loved one. So if money doesn’t buy bliss, what can?
John Lennon, one of the 20th century’s most influential artists, made the most astute comment about happiness I have ever read.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life.”
That indefinable explanation is as close as I’ve come to grasping the concept of contentment.
So do some people have more of it than others, or are some people just born unhappy?
As it turns out, there does seem to be things that can help. What both experience and clinical tests have shown is that exercise, quiet contemplation, conscious acts of kindness, anticipating the future and spending money on people, not possessions, are all keys to sustaining a happy life. Anticipation of something positive is one of the most joyous states of mind, and there is always something to look forward to—even if it is just being done with the day’s work.
Of course no one can be happy all the time. In fact, those who have never experienced any hard times or painful challenges in their life are most often bereft of the joy that comes from overcoming them. And as we all know too well, attitude is the only thing we can control in our lives. One last note—a 3,000-year-old Chinese proverb: “Happy wife, happy life.”
So we might as well grin and bear it, look on the bright side and hope for the best. A positive attitude may not solve all our problems, but it can often annoy our adversaries enough to make it worth the effort.
Jim Kempton is a surf industry veteran who has been happy to get up and go to work almost every day of his life. He is not rich, but he has lived like he was. All he asks is the chance to prove that lots of money can’t make him happy.