So to Lowestoft and thence to home via Norwich and a visit to the cathedral.
Screen and Not Heard
One of our close relations tells me that one of his major worries for his children is “screens”, that is, the addictive nature of the devices that are inclined to stop children from thinking and participating socially. It’s a growing problem.
Walking down a Norwich street, I saw what he meant. A woman was pushing her two children lolling back in a pram. She was preoccupied with her mobile as she walked, and her children sat still, bored, motionless, and blank-faced.
Further on, another woman was talking to her children in a small park. She was laughing and – I think – telling a story; they were bouncing up and down as they listened and laughing back at their mother.
The point about screens is well made.
The American Constitution grants to all citizens the inalienable right to be “happy”. But what on earth does that mean?
When the late Anthony Clare, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, was asked to define “happiness”, he claimed that number one was to have something at the core of our lives that we are passionate about – something that so involves us and is so absorbing that we can forget the iron-clad fact that none of us is going to get out of this life alive.
Be a Leaf
Number two is to be a “leaf upon a tree”. That means being an individual, in the sense of realising we are unique and that we matter, while at the same time knowing that we are part of a bigger organism, perhaps a strong family or a community. Apparently, some interesting experiments have been conducted on “networks”. It seems that the people best insulated against certain ghastly diseases – typically cancer and heart disease – are part of a community or group so that they feel socially involved.
One of the sad losses connected to the abolition of hunting is that it has wrecked strong country communities – after all, there are few enough of them. (Incidentally, please don’t write to me supporting the abolition of hunting for I am making a wholly different point about the loss of community). A lack of community leads to great loneliness.
If you ask how many friends someone feels close to, those with the biggest list of mates are always the happiest, and those with the smallest list by far the unhappiest. It’s bleeding obvious, really.
Clare said that number three is to avoid introspection and an intense preoccupation with yourself. One litmus test to is recall when you meet new people, do they ask about you or do they merely talk about themselves and the miseries that tattoo their parched lives?
If you drift about carrying a tank of worries to pour on anyone with a pulse, don’t be surprised if people duck when they see you coming. Who can blame them? However, if you project good feelings, then you are bound to attract friends much as a flower draws a honeybee. Often, when people proclaim how unhappy they are, the reason is they are projecting misery like a grey mist. Do you remember the “ITMA” (“It’s That Man Again”) character, Mona Lott?
Turn with the Times
Professor Clare’s fourth point was that we shouldn’t spend time looking forward to things for “time’s winged chariot is hurrying near” fast enough as it is. We should live in the moment.
We should be prepared to embrace change and turn with the wheel. This doesn’t mean making massive changes – like moving house every couple of years, for that’s plain daft – but we need enough variety to keep life stimulating. A close relation of mine had “her views”, but through a combination of laziness and fear, no matter how much the facts might have changed, she clung to them as if they were water wings in a choppy sea.
A bishop said to a church warden at his leaving party, “Ah, Mr Jenkins, after 60 years, you must have seen a lot of changes in your time.”
“Yes,” the old man grunted sourly, “and I’ve resisted every single one of them!”
What’s Your Cause?
I reckon that the key to happiness can be summed up as a battle to fight, a maiden to woo and a cause bigger than us to live for.
My answer to the last feature in that list is ZANE. What’s yours?