They say happy people live longer. I read just enough to notice what “they say.” It was a book review but I didn’t jot down the title of it, and even if I do get the book it might simply rest with its cover closed among the other books that have caught my fancy not quite enough to get read all the way through before another grabs me.
What fascinates me most is that some idea like that gets lodged in my mind and I have to go to my notebook and start writing about it. When you’ve lived long enough and have the luxury of more time to think about things you’ll find that there’s a deep well of wisdom within you. All you need to do is let down your bucket and draw from it. You can’t take credit for it, it’s just there, and when you stop to think about it, you don’t have to be old to discover it. That well is there for us at any age. We get tired of just sopping up what “they say” without challenging it with what “I say.”
So, happiness. Does it really contribute to longevity? You’ve known some older people, perhaps, who are crotchety, cantankerous, and anything but happy. Could they get their happiness from being that way? Well, rules always seem to have their contradictions, even definitions of happiness. We have to test them in our own lives. I look at mine and can attest that I’ve been a happy person. Except for that time when...and that other time when... and I do remember when... But looking at those times I find that they are long gone, are no longer a part of me, and I so rarely remember them that I have to conclude the obvious, they are buried in happiness.
Why is that? I can tell you one reason. It’s that I don’t hang onto the bad times. I don’t rehearse them. I don’t glorify them by writing about them so somebody can gain salacious pleasure from reading about them. Or hearing about them. (Don’t you love to hear someone carry on for hours about every bad thing they’ve ever experienced?) No, I don’t just bury them out of sight, I simply lay no claim to them. They are not now and never have been a part of the real me. Sure, guilt and sorrow had their play, but even that is over and done with. I’ve got a better sense of who I am and that’s because I’ve known good. I’m ever learning more about God who is good.
“OK,” I can hear some saying, “here’s where you’ve lost me. There’s no god, and if there were one, it certainly is not a good one. All you have to do is look around and see what such a god lets happen in this world of his. If you do open your eyes to the evil out there you can certainly not believe in a good God! Things are just randomly good and bad according to how you see them. But don’t blame them on a god. That’s just the way they are.”
So, I can understand that point of view, but here’s mine: There’s enough I can call good in this world to believe that there’s good everywhere. Where it seems not to be and something called bad is? Well, that’s only a place where good seems absent. It’s a phase of nothingness claiming to be something. Like a mirage, an illusion, a temporary misconception. At times the bad things in life are so bad that, like bad dreams, we let go of them by dying. We give our consent to the worst. And then?
Your guess is as good as mine about “then.” I believe that, like sleep, death simply releases us from a bad dream and gives us a respite until we can wake up and start over again. Maybe as babies, maybe as we were before death, maybe as it is when we wake up from a night’s sleep, not much different at all. Or maybe it's really over. Maybe there is an end in death. That’s the unsolved mystery that some have come back from to tell their tales. But we don’t know. Not until we ourselves go into the great unknown.
In the meantime, if you can keep being happy you don’t need to escape. The longer you can keep living on the side of faith in the basic goodness of all things, (how else can you keep happy?) you see reasons to live in a happy frame of mind. You cease to give credence to the ugliness, the horrors that come from ignorance of the one infinite Life that is totally good. You take those horrors as no part of the grand reality that is even now working its power over evil by bringing it into the light where it can be seen as it is, simply bald illusion. They say (again,) that "the darkest hour comes just before the dawn."
When I dig into the reasons why I can stay happy it all boils down to this: I can see the dawn of intelligence. I don’t look back. I live in the present and find my interests here. I find some purpose in sticking around. I will not be sucked into thinking oblivion is better than what I have. I don’t give my consent to death. The errors that would appall me are just that, errors, mistakes, things I need to do something about by learning more of what is real and what is not real. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Even my atheist friends can agree to that. Freedom from ignorance makes us free to be what we want to be and if we choose to be happy we have no reason to escape through dying. We will escape though, and peaceably. We'll escape through living, discovering more of what is true, what happiness is all about, now, in the forever now. So, whether you're old, young, or middle-aged, be happy now. And always!