Don’t we all want to live a happy life? Are we not disappointed when the world is falling down around us through lost jobs, failed marriages, depression and other health conditions, the implosion of the world economic system, uncertainty about what all will befall us and this world in the next few years, and many other things.
I remember some years back reading a quote from Peggy Noonan in a
church bulletin that has stuck with me ever since, and is one of the tools in my toolbox for dealing with those things in life that can stir up my depression. Here is the quote.
“I think we have lost the old knowledge that happiness is overrated—that, in a way, life is overrated. We have lost, somehow, a sense of mystery—about us, our purpose, our meaning, our role. Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one. We are the first generation of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such unhappiness. The reason: If you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness—if that is what you believe, then you are not disappointed when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches, you are despairing.”
The slaves in America during the 1800s were some of the most spiritual beings of their time. How could that be with the harsh and cruel system of slavery that permeated their lives, defended from the pulpits of the land? They believed that happiness was not found in this life but would be abundant in the next life. They believed in pie in the sky when you die. And so they were happy, not with their plight in this world but in looking forward to a life without pain and suffering in the next life, a life with enough food, clothing, and the greatest gift of all for them – freedom. I can hear the old spiritual now:
O freedom, O freedom,
O freedom after a while,
And before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave,
And go home to my Lord and be free.