by Dale Ahlquist
We put so much emphasis on the pursuit of happiness rather than on the happiness itself. All the things that we need to make us reasonably happy lie within our grasp. if we pause in our frantic pusuit of happiness, if we stop and try to picture happiness, it is something different from the fuss and frustration that fills our pursuit. Happiness is something simple and basic. And everyone knows this, if they would only stop and consider it. It is common sense.
Men rush towards complexity, but they yearn towards simplicity. They try to be kings; but they dream of being shepherds.
If we will neglect the basic pleasures, the reasonable happiness that is already available to us, we will chase after an unreasonable sort of happiness: the impossible or the forbidden or what we never can have or never should have. “That sort of divine discontent is not the pursuit of happiness, but rather the pursuit of unhappiness.”
The point of the story of Satan is not that he revolted against being in hell, but that he revolted against being in heaven. The point about Adam is not that he was discontented with the conditions of the earth, but that he was discontented with the conditions of the earthly paradise.
This discontent leads to the loss of wonder. The world becomes stale, and all other problems follow.
The effect of this staleness is the same everywhere; it is seen in all drug-taking and dram-drinking and every form of the tendency to increase the dose. Men seek stranger sins or more startling obsceneities as stimulants to their jaded sense. They seek after mad oriental religions for the same reason. They try to stab their nerves to life. . . . They are walking in their sleep and try to wake themselves up with nightmares.
There is a clarity in contentment. And it is something that we can control, something we can choose. It is a happiness that we can choose. The misery of discontent is passive. It is muddled and it muddles. It is cynical and suspicious and short. it is hopeless. But wonder is active. It shimmers. it is full of faith and hope. And it is eternal.