Old and New

Luis Rubio

Life has its cycles and the calendar too. A year is about to end and the next one begins: the expectation never ceases to be present in the form of hope and fear, opportunity and possibility. As in other years, I take this moment to quote some of the great thinkers, this time regarding one of the great aspirations of all members of the human race: happiness.*

“Happiness is a mystery like religion, and should never be rationalized.” GK Chesterton, 1905

“One is never as unhappy as one thinks, nor as happy as one hopes.” La Rochefoucald, 1664

“Here you are, my dear child, my necklace, my feather, my offspring, my progeny, my blood, my color, my blood elation. Now please understand, please listen, for you came to life, you were born, for our omnipresent lord, the maker, the creator, has sent you here to earth…And now that you already see, that you observe how things are, that there is not contentment, there is not happiness, but that there is torment, there is pain, there is weariness; out of it comes misery, torment and pain. It’s difficult on earth; it is a place of weeping, a place of suffering, where affliction and hardship are common. And as cold, chill wind comes up and passes through. It is truly said that the wind cools the sun’s warmth ro4 people. It is a place of thirst and hunger. That’s just the way it is… But on earth life goes on.”  Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine Codex, 1596

“A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth.” George Bernard Shaw, 1903

“I have already enjoyed too much; give me something to desire.” The old man was surprised at this new species of affliction and knew not what to replay, yet was unwilling to be silent. “Sir,” said he, “if you had seen the miseries of the world, you would know how to value your present state.” “Now,” said the prince, “you have given me something to desire; I shall long to see the miseries of the world, since the sight of them is necessary to happiness.” Samuel Johnson, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, 1759

“Goal Post: 1. Be patient. No matter what.2. Don’t bad-mouth: assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him. 3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble that yours are to you. 4. Expand your sense of the possible. 5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change. 6. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself. 7. Tolerate ambiguity. 8. Laugh at yourself frequently. 9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than with who is right. 10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong. 11. Give up blood sports. 12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously. 13. Never lie to anyone for any reason (lies of omission are sometimes exempt). 14. Learn of the needs of those around you and respect them. 15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to redefine your mission and pursue that. 16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun. 17. Praise at least as often as you disparage. 18. Admit your errors freely and soon. 19. Become less suspicious of joy. 20 Understand humility. 21. Remember that love forgives everything. 22. Foster dignity. 23. Love memorably. 24. Love yourself.  25. Endure. I don’t expect the perfect attainment of these principles. However, I post them as a standard of conduct as an adult. Should any of my friends or colleagues catch me violating any of them, bust me.” John Perry Barlow, Principles of Adult Behavior,1977

“The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back on its own weight… The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus.

“How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness is in fact for most men at all times the secret motive of all they do.” William James, 1902

“Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination,” Immanuel Kant, 1785

“The happiness of society is the end of government.” John Adams, 1776

“It is one of the most saddening things of life that, try as we may, we can never be certain of making people happy, whereas we can almost be certain of making them unhappy.” Thomas Henry Huxley, 1895

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Until death, it is all life.” Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes

“There is only one honest impulse at the bottom of puritanism, and that is the impulse to punish the man with a superior capacity for happiness.” H.L. Mencken, 1920

*All quotes from Lapham’s Quarterly, volume XII, Number 3, Summer, 2019