Today, at the start of the Church’s liturgical year, I start a new series of Another Country. I will do it in the form of a letter to one of my six children, but so that I don’t favour any particular one, I shall address it to one we never had – Gabriel.
We always liked this name, but never used it.
Today a copy of Awake arrived from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I would never join them, but some of their literature is worth reading, so be polite when they turn up at your door!
They give five secrets of happiness:
1) Love people, not money or possessions. ‘The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.’ [Timothy 6:10]
2) Resist the urge to compare yourself with others. ‘Do your work well and then you will have something to be proud of.’ [Galatians 6:4]
3) Maintain an appreciative attitude. ‘In connection with everything, give thanks.’ [Thessalonians 5:18]
4) Chose your friends wisely. ‘He that is walking with wise persons will become wise.’ [Proverbs 13:2]
5) Satisfy your spiritual needs. ‘Happy are those conscious of their Spiritual need.’ [Matthew 5:3]
I would add to the first: love people not power or reputation. Easy for me to say, because I have been in the backbenches for twenty-five years and have never been offered power. But the love of power is as corrosive to speaking your own truth in your own way as the love of money. Perhaps it is worse.
To the second, I would add: Resist the urge to compare yourself to what you might have been or may become. Live for the present to help you work at the present. Look at nature – not just a glorious star flecked sky or sunset, but also the leaves of a plane tree in a city.
This helps in the third instruction – to maintain an appreciative attitude. If all else fails, remember that you are alive.
The fourth speaks for itself.
The fifth is the most important: ‘Satisfy your spiritual needs.’ The world has grown enormously in material happiness and, particularly in the West, stalled on spiritual happiness. I don’t quite know why. Perhaps we can investigate these together later.