Happy Thanksgiving. It’s a time to be grateful.
When I was in a tough time of life, with a lot of difficult tasks going on and not many things that felt happy or joyful, I spent some time looking for something that could help me out of the rut and help me feel happy.
Before I go there, since then I learned something I like from Jordan Peterson. He says we waste too much energy seeking happiness. He believes happiness is fleeting. We either have it or we don’t, and there’s not much we can do to control that. If we have it, be grateful for it, because it’s not always prevalent. But a better thing to seek is meaning. His usual example of the best meaningful life is participating in the Christian goal of redeeming human’s sins by committing to and living your best to create a heaven on Earth. Or Zion, using more Mormon language.
I think that’s likely true, but I also think there are things we can do to give ourselves the best chance to live happy and joyfully.
I like this verse from the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 2:41
41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
That future state of never-ending happiness, dwelling with God, that’s out of scope right now. But the first reference to happiness, in the here and now, I think is true. I think it’s generally true for me, and generally true when I observe others in my life. If you’re living right, I think it gives you better chance to be happy. And the flip side, if you’re not living right, you decrease your chance to be happy. What does “keeping the commandments” or “living right” mean exactly? I think it’s useful to consider both the New Testament grace based model, “take no thought for the morrow”, living in the moment and accepting and being grateful for what Christ is giving you in the here and now. And also the Old Testament works based model of doing all you can to serve God and others. One of the greatest truths I’ve learned from my Mormon faith is that I become happy by serving others.
I use phrases like “more likely” or “gives us best chance”, because it’s not a direct correlation. I like “prosperity gospel” concepts but it’s not a tit for tat relationship. There are times you are not going to find happiness despite how right you are living.
On this search for happiness, I found this Ted Talk given by David Steindl-Rast, who says the key to being happy is to be grateful.
In this talk he encourages us to be grateful for this moment. I will never, ever have this moment on a quiet Thanksgiving morning, writing this blog post, listening to Depeche Mode coming from my computer speakers, sitting still, aware of my in breath and out breath. I’ll never by 48 years, two months, five days, 12 hours, 16 minutes, and 45 seconds again. That moment is here. Next it’s gone. If I don’t cherish that moment, I’ll never get another chance. I’ll never have another chance to have a 12 year old son again. My new experimental beard will never have this combination of brown, black, white, and gray ever again. I think there’s even some blonde and red in there. But the point is, this moment is a gift. Experience it. Be grateful for it. And that gratefulness turns to happiness.
If we can stay in that present moment, as Adam Miller says, it’s an early resurrection living a life in Christ now, in the present time, accepting God’s grace and being grateful for that, that’s our best shot at staying happy.