Secrets of a happy life

Benjamin Human Relationships

– Fr. Benjamin

I just recently read a very thoughtful article looking at the failures of Tiger Woods through Plato’s characterization of the soul. Basically put, Plato looks at the human soul as made up of three parts, one desiring food and physical pleasure, another desiring victory and honor, and the third which seeks knowledge of the good. The third part is reason, and according to Plato its desire should rule the soul but rarely does. A quote from the entry is well worth reading:

“In much of American entertainment, advertising, and commentary we find the suggestion that human happiness is to be won through “success,” understood as the attainment of high status conventionally understood, and pleasure, understood as bodily satisfactions. Tiger Woods, however, achieved more status, and experienced more bodily pleasures, than probably any other living person. If extreme pursuit of, and extreme success in winning, these kinds of pleasures could not make him happy, why should we think they will make any of us happy?”

Very true. Tiger Woods had what most television commercials tell us we need. Tiger Woods was not happy. If we want to be happy, we need to look somewhere else.

This morning I had a pleasant conversation with an old gentleman who never had the success of Tiger Woods, nor did he ever enjoy the kind of pleasure that Tiger enjoyed. He spent much of his life working on a farm, but his true accomplishment was being married for 71 years.

The last few years were difficult on him, since his wife could no longer care for herself, but in our conversation this morning I could see how proud he is of his life and how much joy there is in his heart over the good times they all enjoyed. I think a great burden was lifted off his heart once his wife passed away. While he cannot articulate his thoughts like Plato can, he knows what it takes to make a good life and he could teach Tiger Woods a lot about the secrets of happiness and succcess.

What are those secrets? From this conversation, I would give you two tips.
1) Care for the the people in your life instead of caring for money, fame, or possessions.
Money, fame and possessions have a way of leaving you empty and unsatisfied, and this is a fact that Tiger Woods apparently discovered. All his fame and sports success did not satisfy his hunger, but his spirit was still unsatisfied. You might notice he had a lot of women in his life, but they were in his life in the capacity of possessions not as people.

2) Do what you know to be right, no matter how you feel or what you would rather do.
Forming the habit of consistently doing the right thing brings enormous peace to life, and avoids headaches and stress that are unnecessary. It also avoids regrets. The gentleman told me one story, in which the priest at the parish announced he was leaving the priesthood.
“Well, I ‘m better than you,” he told the priest, “because I’m still married to my wife.” He knew what was right, and he did it, and that is the secret to a happy life.