On the internet last week there was an article from Science Direct about how one English town viewed happiness over the past seventy years. Science Direct explained that in 1938 an ad in a British paper invited Bolton Evening News readers to respond to the question, “What is happiness?” They were asked to organize 10 factors by their happiness importance. Their top three, in order were: security, knowledge, and religion.
Last year, a psychologist also asked Bolton residents, via the News, to fill out a questionnaire that mirrored the one used in 1938. Things had changed, at least according to the 489 people; religion now occupied the 10th slot. While security is still in the top 3 it is now 3rd; sadly and maybe not surprisingly the top two are leisure and good humor. This change, as I mentioned earlier is sadly not surprising and fits with what I have noticed in our society – that society today is terribly conflicted and in a way neurotic.
I am reminded of the words of St. John the Baptist: ‘among you stands one whom you do not know’ Mankind has successfully pushed the most important relationship of man, their relationship with God, to the peripheries of their mind and in doing so has opened the emptiness in their heart wider. Attached to this is the neglect of interpersonal concern (of which self-giving love being the zenith). The idea that mankind now looks to leisure and good humor above religion is evidence of this. It is a turn inwards – a desire for isolation. Leisure and good humor are individualistic activities; true they can and are often done among others, they are still internal feelings. As we know these ideas of happiness are fleeting and leave us hungering for more; and added to the isolationist attitude that mankind has embraced (as evidenced by the withdrawal of generations into the cyber world) ultimately instills in individuals, and society as a whole, the conflicted, neurotic, desperate angst that we live with today.
Christ tells us today that this charade of happiness can be remedied by turning to Him. ‘“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.”… “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.”’ These are the words that the heart of every single man and woman yearns to follow. Our part is to open their minds to possibility that these words are what they need. Our calling in Christ’s mission to assuage the fears of interpersonal relationships that mankind holds. But it won’t be easy; each succeeding decade has allowed mankind to withdraw within a world of their own making and so it will take much time to walk them back out of this fortress and into the light of true peace and happiness. We must not expect massive changes from our part – but we can be assured of great things coming from our work, eventually.
If our part is to introduce those ‘walled in’ to the open expanse of love and community then we must make certain that we are not afflicted with this ailment as well. We need to take stock of what is important to us, what moves us to action. Do we withdraw within a prayer life that never moves to the community – to the peripheries; or does our interaction with God lead to and take energy from our interaction with those God loves? We are winding down our celebration of God’s gift of Himself to those He created, and we are about to celebrate the power He gave us in His Holy Spirit to go out bring the joy and happiness of following His plan so I ask what is our part? What makes us Happy? Personally, I would answer the question in the survey with: ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’