One of my favorite syndicated columnists is George Will, The Washington Post’s master of laconic prose gilded in superb expression, no matter how obnoxious, puerile and spiteful the politics he comments on happen to be. He can make the Grim Reaper sound like a welcome party guest!
So when I saw Will’s recent lengthy essay titled, “The Pursuit of Happiness is Happiness,” I knew I had to practically consume it immediately. Just for the record, Will and I are not in the same political arena; he is a Republican-turned Independent because of the Trump presidency, and I am a Democrat. I sensed that in his essay, Will would affirm what I have always thought: seeking happiness is itself the only core happiness we can hope to achieve on this earth. It goes along with the thinking and experiments of current psychologists and neurologists who hold that the act of seeking is the best of happiness we can experience. In other words, we are not quite as happy when we achieve a goal as we are when we are pursuing it.
Will says that trying to live our democracy is the important factor of American life. It’s a lot like writing. You work on it like a craft: you learn its issues, you contribute to its well-being. You never give up on it. Your goal is as close to perfection as you can get and the next attempt will be even better. You give all to the process and you love it as you do it.
Today, you are reading my 100th blog! A special anniversary for me as I have written one blog per week for 100 weeks since November, 2019. I have loved writing these blogs. They have made me think about what is going on in our universe that might require a spiritual lift for my readers. I have received wonderful messages from readers, mostly on my personal email but many on the blog response post. I treasure these. According to my analytics, I have readers in almost every country in the world!
George Will estimates that he has written 6,000 columns in his 50 years of writing them. Of course, I am nowhere near that number. But he is a writer and I am finally a writer—after years of doing service, I can do what I love. Will earned the academic degrees he needed to teach in a university, his initial goal as a young man. I did the same. After attempts at this, he was offered a job for both The National Review and The Washington Post. I kept at my job/ministry of teaching journalism and hoped some day to write fulltime. I was a longtime freelance journalist even while teaching and I enjoyed getting published to remain credible to my students and garner the points needed for tenure.
After retiring from teaching, I responded to a call to direct the Jesuit Retreat Center in Parma, Ohio. In my conscience I felt I could not refuse the offer. Still the call to write nagged at me and bore sharply into my soul. Now I can write—after two retirements. I have a novel in the works and a memoir and a collection of spiritual reflections on the Gospel message. Will they materialize? I work at it. I am involved, in other words, in the pursuit of happiness.
If you want to be a happy person, pick something to do that will challenge you more in the process than in achieving the goal. Maybe it’s a volunteer activity or simply to learn a new hobby. Or, take a class on an interest you may have. This week, sit down and make a short list of things you always wanted to do. And then get started. Nearly 95% of happiness is guaranteed just by showing up and beginning the process.
This is a special way of finding God in your life. It’s a way of digging deeply into the corners of your soul and taking God’s hand as you engage in the pursuit of happiness.