Can We Be Truly Happy?

man standing with arms wide silhouetted against sunset

The puppy said to the old dog:  “I’ve learnt that the best thing for a little dog is happiness and that happiness is in my tail and that’s why I wag my tail.  It’s why I chase my tail and I know when I catch my tail that I shall have perfect happiness”.

And the old dog said, “Yes, I too have judged that happiness is a fine thing for a dog and that happiness is in a dog’s tail but from my long experience I’ve noticed that whenever I try to catch it, it chases away and I keep running after it.  But when I go about doing all my little things every day, it always follows me”.

For those old enough to remember, comedian Ken Dodd sang about happiness as “the greatest gift that I possess” and saw it as “a frame of mind”.   The song “Happiness” charted in 1964 and became Dodd’s signature song.  You can remind yourself of his song here, although some may regard doing so as a penance!

But what is clear is that one of the deepest mysteries of life is that of happiness.  Father John Hardon (a close associate and advisor of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Mother Teresa) observed:

“How is it that what everyone is looking for, so few seem to find? And how is it that what all the wise men of history have been teaching, so few seem to have learned? It cannot be that people’s desire for happiness is not strong enough.  It is on examination the strongest impulse of human nature.  Nor can it be that God does not want us to be happy”.

Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger) said “The deepest poverty is not material poverty but spiritual poverty: the inability to be joyful, the conviction that life is absurd and contradictory. In different forms this poverty is widespread today, both in the materially rich and in the impoverished nations. The inability to grasp joy comes from and leads to the inability to love.  It produces jealousy and avarice, devastating the life of individuals and of the world”. You can read his thoughts in detail here.

 We might gain some understanding of the unhappy chaos currently going on in the world, and especially in Europe as it stands on the cusp of conflict, by discerning Christ’s words from today’s gospel and also St. Paul’s advice in the second reading:

“A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.  For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart.”  (Luke 6:45)

“Never give in then, my dear brothers, never admit defeat; keep on working at the Lord’s work always, knowing that, in the Lord, you cannot be labouring in vain.”  (1 Corinthians 15:58)

No more than a dog can catch its tail, you can’t catch happiness.  But keep to the Lord’s work in the simple things you do every day and it’ll follow you.