Monday, June 9, 2008

The Ingredients of Happiness

Some time ago I picked up an old copy of Time magazine, from January 17, 2005, that focused on what researchers were learning about happiness. I had it lying around the house and read a bit here and there, but I hadn't finished it before Leif died.

The articles were interesting, about psychologists who thought that studying depression didn't tell us much about happiness, only about depression, and they aren't just opposites. And that many of the "things" people think may make them happy, don't.

I remember having a long phone conversation with my brother about a month after Leif died, and telling him that I felt that in order to be happy and feel worthwhile, a man needed three things; someone to love, meaningful work, and a sense of purpose, and that Leif lacked all those things. He was lonely, found his job unsatisfying, and although there were times he felt a sense of purpose, it became destroyed.

Several weeks after he died, I read the rest of the Time issue, and the end of the article concerning happiness and money ("The Real Truth About Money" by Gregg Easterbrook) contained a sentence that capsulized exactly what I was trying to say. From page A34, "Love, friendship, family, respect, a place in the community, the belief that your life has purpose - those are the essentials of human fulfillment, and they cannot be purchased with cash."

How true that is.

Leif identified himself as an existentialist, and that fit him in the bleakest sense. I used to tell him that it is up to us to find or make our purpose in life . . . but that is not a simple thing, and is all the harder when one is depressed and lonely. Then, the very things that will help are the hardest to do.

I miss him. I cry for him every day. Sometimes many times a day.

Do I have the essentials for happiness? I did. And yes, I still do, though one of the pillars of my family, one of the pillars of that happiness, is gone.

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