Happiness, is there such a thing

It has been one amazing week after the other in terms of weather here in Southern Ontario (this week aside) and people on the streets, in the shops and at work are quicker to smile.  A general sense of happiness appears to have washed over everyone. On the surface we see this as happiness, and in some cases it is, but maybe that’s all it is; surface happiness.  I’m curious about a deeper happiness, one that cannot be erased by the absence of good weather.  Is there even such a thing? There is the notion, brought up in German author Erich Maria Remarque’s Heaven Has No Favorites, that happiness is a relatively new concept, only practiced for the past 200 years or so.  Before that people didn’t expect unending joy, they knew life was hard and one could only expect a bit of reprieve from time to time – maybe in a loved one’s arms, the feeling of a cool breeze on a hot day, the ability to earn a living.  American author Ernest Hemingway explored this idea as well in his classic For Whom the Bell Tolls.  The main character Robert Jordan, who works with Spanish Republic guerrilla fighters during the Spanish civil war of the 1930s, is Hemingway’s vehicle for poetically questioning at times the moments we share with ourselves and each other and if those moments amount to the only happiness we will ever find. Getting too philosophical on you?  If you want to look at it simply, consider happiness as the general well being of our state of mind.  The spaces we inhabit, cities and towns, the structures that we surround ourselves with, they all have an effect on our minds (ever wonder why you’re not inspired when hanging around the vinyl-sided box stores and warehouses of the Canadian suburbs but are thrown in to the passions and dreams of a bohemian when you travel overseas and walk through elegant places like Jardin du Luxembourg of Paris or Piazza San Marco of Venice?). A surface happiness comes when we hear good news, as in the case of our economy.  Take for example the recent news that Canadian firms are in the strongest position they have been in for years.  Such a thing perks up the spirits of many economists and business types. And there is little time when fashion doesn’t leave its mark in our society, so it is worth mentioning that even what styles and colours we wear are indicators of how we’re feeling and if we’re “happy”.  Anecdotal evidence suggests during times of economic prosperity the mini skirt makes an appearance and the current upturn in Canada’s economy (I say this cautiously) brighter and more vibrant colours have been seen on mannequins in shop windows.  Is that just the 1980-90s style making its inevitable return or are the fluorescents deliberately placed to encourage spending? No amount of money though will give you true solace.  It has been said that people who put a monetary value on their time are reportedly less happy.  Keep it in mind, because happiness is not something you can strive for through possessions or projections.  It is a feeling like any other that comes and goes like a passing storm.  And to ever experience it, one cannot try to obtain it. “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mohandas ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS | The Ontarian, Writer, Editor

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