HEDWIG LEWIS SJ
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“Happiness” cannot be manufactured, as such. But the ingredients that go into ‘producing’ it are abundantly available. Like any good product in the market, all depends on your choice of ‘raw material’ – their finer qualities, the proper proportion, and the state-of-the-art technology to ‘assemble’ them. But after all the effort, however sincere and strenuous, happiness is not yours to get, it is Life’s to give!
Said a puppy to an old dog: “In a course on philosophy I learned that the best thing for a dog is happiness and that happiness is in my tail. Therefore, I am chasing my tail; and when I catch it, I shall have it.”
The old dog replied: “I, too, have judged that happiness is a fine thing for a dog and that happiness is in my tail. But I've noticed that whenever I chase it, it keeps running away from me; but when I go about my business, it comes after me.”
Happiness must not be pursued; it must be created.
The search for happiness is often the chief source of unhappiness.
A great obstacle to happiness is to anticipate too great a happiness.
There is no such thing as the pursuit of happiness, but there is the discovery of joy. The place to be happy is here; the time to be happy is now; the way to be happy is to make others so.
Happiness adds and multiplies as
we divide it with others
Happiness cannot be 'invented' – it has to be ‘discovered’. Truth is, I can make it my ‘business’ to live happily and let others around me live happily. If I have the right attitudes and behaviour, I will be ‘producing’ happiness. And the sounder my attitudes, and the more ‘perfect’ my behaviour, the greater will be the quality of the happiness created.
Happiness is not a mechanical or electronic gadget – like TV sets – that I enjoy watching in my living room or present to people for their enjoyment and pleasure. I cannot hold it or hand it over. It is more like perfume, which through some chemistry affects you and those around. Even if you empty the container by sprinkling it on others, some remains on you.
Then again, happiness is not something that happens once and for all. That is, it is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of travelling. As Amy Lowell put it in her poem Happiness:
Happiness, to some elation;
Only those who are constantly vigilant, with mind and heart turned in the right direction, experience happiness at all times.
Another important aspect to the above fact is that this train called ‘Life’ has no ‘stations’ : it is always on the move. You cannot remain the ‘same’ even for a second – even though you may appear to be unchanging externally. For, at every point of life you are changing, becoming ‘better’ or ‘worse’; increasing your happiness or diminishing it, however microscopically minute the change may be.
Those of you who have grown potted plants may understand this better. When the seedling emerges from the soil, it looks tiny. You may observe it for an hour or two, or more, and yet notice no change whatever. But leave it to itself, and the next day you realise it has shot up some length. In stages you have the stem, the leaves, the bud, the flower.... But you have to keep watering it regularly. If you fail to do so, you will hardly notice its deterioration till one day you wake up and find it dead!
You cannot go through life without at every moment in given time, either increasing or diminishing someone’s happiness, as well as your own. There is no middle way. This is something that needs deep reflection.
Happiness is in the heart, not in the circumstances. The happiest people do not necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything. For it is not your position that makes you happy or unhappy -- it is your disposition.
The Source –
and end-all – of human happiness is
God. Happiness is God’s free
gift to His children. Happiness will never be yours if you do not recognise to
some degree that God's blessings are given you for the well-being of everyone in
the world. You must, therefore, keep your happiness in circulation. And the best
means for doing this is through contact with God and
outreach to your brothers
and sisters on earth.
In his bestseller The Power Of Positive Thinking, the famous pastor and author, Norman Vincent Peale, describes an interesting experience in a railroad dining car.
It is strange, but there are quite a few people have made it their ‘business’ to be unhappy, and in turn, make the lives of those around them unhappy. It takes quite some skill – and a sense of humour – to live with such people and not let their negativism rub off on ones own attitudes and behaviour!
On the other hand, we come across those exceptional people who have made it their business to ‘manufacture happiness’, in the context explained in the Introduction to this book. Through such raw-materials as: a positive attitude, an optimistic perspective toward all circumstances and events; a genuine heart for others – in cordial relationships and selfless service; unconditional generosity; a sound value system, a sense of justice and tolerance, and, of course, an "interior life" – which implies self-knowledge and acceptance, and an intimate relationship with God.... they develop a ‘culture’ or an approach to life by which happiness gets ‘manufactured’ for common use.
As you have realized, happiness is never for yourself; it always involves others, and the Other! You cannot ‘manufacture’ happiness only for yourself or by yourself; it is a product that requires ‘team-work’, and is meant both to be personally enjoyed and freely shared.
Harold S. Kushner in How Good Do We Have To Be? beautifully illustrates this aspect:
Paradise stands for happiness. Jesus was sent to us from ‘paradise’ on a mission to establish a ‘heaven on earth’ as far as is humanly possible. Of course, His understanding of happiness is, as would be expected, different from the perception commonly held. He called His paradise the ‘Kingdom of God’. It would be a ‘place’, or an environment – or atmosphere, where ‘godly’ values would flourish. Only in such a condition does true happiness exist. Every follower of Christ, therefore, is called to be a "happiness manufacturer" and is entrusted with the mission of establishing God’s Kingdom, in the midst of other secular responsibilities.
There are some, however, who devote themselves wholly to this task. These are "happiness manufacturers" or "missionaries" – including priests, nuns, social workers, dedicated parents, teachers, and others – who believe in God’s power, who transcend and help others transcend human limitations and evils, through prayer and Gospel-values.
Creating an environment for your own happiness, as we have seen, entails a necessary dynamic by which you make others happy. You cannot be happy only for yourself. Happiness, unlike material wealth, cannot be stored up. It must be circulated if its freshness and value is to be retained. The more you give, the more you are enriched. There is both an unlimited supply and an unlimited demand. There is room for as many "happiness manufacturers" as there are people on this earth, for the supply is far less than the demand.
This book contains simple meditations, in the form of stories and reflections, to help you build the sound basis that is needed for an effective "happiness manufacturer". The first part focuses on your relationship with God – The Source Of All Happiness. The second on you, the Happiness Manufacturer, a co-creator (1 Cor 3.9) with God.
Happiness Manufacturers is addressed to you, young men and women, who are fired with God's love and Christ's challenge to go to the whole world and spread the Good News – "the Kingdom of God has come". Some of you may have received the "call" to become Priests, Brothers, or Sisters, or to follow a ‘way of life’ that is closely related to these. Others may choose family life and a secular career, but would still like to pursue their inner urge to serve their fellow humans, especially the downtrodden, in whatever way they can.
Perhaps you are yet too young to make a decision about your future, and you are still "thinking" about what to do. You may be an ‘aspirant’, a ‘postulant’, a ‘prenovice’, or ‘novice’ – in a convent or seminary, who is discerning God’s will and is preparing the ground for a future course of action.
So, welcome to
the world of happiness manufacturing. Like in any other business, you will face
ups and downs, trials and errors, triumphs and tragedies.... But if you take
things with a sense of purpose, and are prepared to face challenges with firm
faith in your heart, your job-satisfaction and personal-enrichment will be
guaranteed. Besides, you are never alone in this venture; you always have an
ever-available and all-knowing ‘partner’ – God, if you learn how to
consult and collaborate with Him at every step you take. All the best!
THE SCHEME OF THE BOOK
, there is a STORY or POEM, followed by a few comments.
Second, several Questions for reflection.
Third, there are suggestions for further meditation: references from Scripture or ‘quotes’.
Fourth, there is another anecdote/story/poem.
Note: On the Title Page of
each Section there is a PRAYER. This could be used at the start of every session
of prayer for the sets in that Section
Different people have their individual styles for prayer. Below is one procedure. Follow it if it helps.
1. At the
start of every
prayer-period take a moment to get yourself together. Make an ‘Act of Presence’.
That is, keep silent, still your body, recollect your thoughts. Remind yourself
that wherever you are – God is present. You are about to increase your
awareness of that Presence, to make it more real to you, because you are going
to commune with God, to spend some time with a Friend, a Father or Mother, a
Beloved or Lover!
2. Say something to God by
way of acknowledging the Divine Presence. For example:
Pause to listen to God speaking in your heart:
"... you are precious
in My eyes, you are honoured and I love you. Do not be afraid, for I am with
you" (Is 43.5).
Then you may say the prayer found on the Title Page of the section you have taken up.
3. Now that you feel assured of God’s Presence and your own longing for prayer, you can read the first story in the set of prayer you have chosen. After you have finished, close your eyes. Become aware of your thoughts and emotions. Recall the ideas that moved you. Reflect on them. Speak to God about what you are thinking or feeling.
Once satisfied with your own reflection, and if you would like to proceed, read the comments below the story. If they lead you to further reflection by highlighting an insight you have missed, carry on your reflection. Share your insights with God.
Next, take up the questions given and answer them. Pray to God as your heart directs.
Further, look up the references from Scripture, or the quotes provided. Raise your heart to God in words or in silence.
Note: You may not have time to do all the above in one session of prayer. Spread them out over the days ahead.
4. Do not end your prayer-time abruptly with the reflection. Say a word of thanks to God for being with you. Ask God for Grace to translate your prayer into your life.
5. At night, before you
retire, you can spend a few moments to Review
how your prayer for the day was
spent. You may want to make some changes in the time, place, or method of prayer
in the next session.
It would be
good if you also include in conclusion a prayer for those who are called by God
to make "happiness manufacturing" their exclusive ‘business’:
priests, sisters, brothers.... Pray therefore for "vocations" to the
Priesthood, Brotherhood, Sisterhood. There is a real need in the Church,
especially in Mission lands, for men and women who are totally given to the
service of God; for those who can take up the challenge of making our
materialistic world understand the true nature of ‘paradise’ – the Kingdom
Say an Our Father and end it with a short invocation such as "Heavenly Father, give the young men and women whom your Son ‘chooses’ and ‘calls’ to accomplish His mission, the generosity and courage needed to respond by joining the seminary or convent.
Then say a Hail Mary and end by imploring our blessed mother to help you and all young men and women to ‘listen’ to the ‘voice of the Spirit’ and say ‘yes’ to God's will in all circumstances of life.
Finally, close with the Glory Be.
A FEW SAMPLE PAGES
Section One: OUR SOURCE OF HAPPINESS
I. GOD’S LOVING PRESENCE
Lord, my God, you
Father, all the things
that you have created,
Teach me to use these
Enable me, with your
love and grace,
Let me constantly choose
only those things
1. OUR WELLSPRING
God is the Almighty Creator. Though God created humans and entrusted his creation into their hands, He continue to remain its primary Caretaker, its source. Nothing would survive and flourish without His loving, constant presence. God’s involvement in this creation is not ‘mechanical’ but ‘personal’. He is not a one-time inventor but a full-time Father and Mother. He is constantly tending His creation with love, ensuring the free flow of the stream of life within us. He keeps on empowering us so that we can be ‘happiness manufacturers’.
Do you acknowledge God as
the Source, the Fountain of life?
Pray the beautiful Psalm 104 on
2. Our Sustenance
In the good old days there was a little church which was famous for its annual organ concerts. The organ was an old model, with large bellows hidden from view, that were operated by a man, to pump wind into it. One year a famous organist was invited and true to his name, he kept everyone enraptured by his excellent performance.
At the intermission, the organist
stepped backstage for a breath of fresh air. There he was greeted by the bellows
operator, who stood by the window smoking a pipe. The man seemed very pleased
with himself as he remarked to the artiste, “What a superb concert we're
giving our audience tonight.”
The reputed organist, somewhat
taken aback by the man’s presumptuous attitude, said in a slightly sharp tone,
“How do you mean we, old fellow? I am giving the concert, as far
as I know!” Then he returned to the organ to continue on the programme.
The next piece of music was the
organist’s very own composition, specially prepared for the occasion. Once the
audience had settled, he struck the typical pose, and with a flourish let his
hands drop on the keys. There was absolutely no sound. Somewhat confused, he
struck again. Still no sound. After a long, embarrassing pause, a sudden
understanding dawned on him. He stood up, motioned to the audience to stay
still, then rushed backstage. The bellows operator was still by the window
smoking his pipe. He looked up indifferently as the organist faced him.
“What's your name, sir?” asked the organist in a conciliatory tone.
“Danny,” was the pleasant
“Well Danny,” said the organist with a smile, “You were right. We are giving them a grand concert.” Danny acknowledged the recognition with wink. When the organist returned to the organ and struck the keys this time, they came to life! As the deafening applause died down after the piece, the organist went to the mike and announced: “I dedicate this composition to Danny, the invisible bellows operator who helped me play it!”
We live and move because of the God-given life in us. We think and feel because of the mind and heart that God has provided. We ‘create’ and ‘invent’ because of the brains God has gifted us. We achieve physical feats because of the power within us. The ‘root-cause’ of our accomplishments and successes is God. God is the Invisible Mover. He prefers to operate back-stage, pumping into each of His creatures the vital energy that is needed to be effective co-creators.
People down the ages have used the ‘brains’ and the body that God had provided them to help civilization evolve and develop in all possible ways, to explore the farthest reaches of outer space, to delve into the deepest reaches of the human soul. It is human cooperation with the divine gifts that has made these possible.
Do you appreciate the fact that
you are a ‘co-creator’ with God?
Read meditatively Psalm 8 or Rom
Samuel B. Morse, in response to a friend’s query, confided, “And may I tell you that when flattering honours came to me from America and Europe on account of my invention which bears my name, I never felt I deserved them. I had made a valuable application of electricity, not because I was superior to other men, but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone, and was pleased to reveal it to me.”
God’s gifts are also passed on
to us through innumerable invisible hands. God provided the meadows for the lamb
to graze, but it took a long, circuitous, route before the lamb’s gift of wool
was transformed into the elegant sweater you wear to keep yourself warm.
24. SELF ENLIGHTENMENT
When you were young, you held somebody else’s hand to find your way in the dark. But as you matured, you developed enough courage to walk in the dark by yourself. If you fear the dark, and ‘dark periods’ of your life – sickness, sadness, sorrow – it is because you forget that you are not alone. With the assurance that God is always present, at all times, in all places, you can weather any storm – physical, psychological, spiritual.
Is your life’s
"flame" kept burning with the "oil" of faith?
"Your word is a light to guide
me and a light for my path." Ps 119.105
Reflect on these inspiring insights from Marianne Williamson:
All the darkness of the world cannot put out the light of one candle.
The contents are divided into three nearly equal parts under the head of source of happiness, ingredients of happiness, and what he calls our business of happiness. Each part is sub-divided into smaller heads with 4 meditation themes under it. There is a common pattern in each meditation, which might give the impress of a boring or laborious task. But there is such endless variety of content, and rich repertoire of source material within the repeated pattern, that there is no risk of boredom in doing the prayer meditation exercises offered by this presentation.
The author expressly directs this book to those who have set themselves definite goals in life and are prepared to face the challenges on the way with confidence. Might he not be helping to change and motivate those who are otherwise disposed, but would like to grow into goal-directed and plan-oriented persons who rind their happiness therein?
Anyway, the approach is modest
and appealing in its un-dogmatic tentativeness. As meant for daily or regularly
spaced use and personal assimilation, this is not a
read-at-a-stretch-and-throw-away book. In a few words, the exercises contained
in it are and can make for a telling, touching, insightful, inspiring and
arousing experience. Those who use it meditatively can find it a help to
personal growth in a self-and-others-transforming happiness.
is presented in a style similar to that of the
author’s well-known book At Home With God. It has stories, poems,
quotes, comments and questions for reflection, and references and suggestions
for prayer. An inspirational Vocation Handbook! (Back cover)