14 February, 2012

Something Happy This Way Comes

17. Happiness
from Chicago Poems

Carl Sandburg, 1916.

I ASKED the professors who teach the meaning of life
            to tell me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives
            who boss the work of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads
            and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them
And then one Sunday afternoon
            I wandered out along the Desplaines river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their
            women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.

That is the problem, isn't it? What is happiness? And what path in life will procure it for us?

My experience has been that it is very much as Sandburg suggests. Happiness is as difficult to define as it to predict accurately what will make us truly happy. Yet, we always know it when we see it. Perhaps when we feel it would be more appropos. Sandburg saw it in the everyday enjoyment of living, and once seen, he knew it to be real.

Throughout the Greek and Roman eras, the Cynics, the Skeptics, the Stoics, the Epicureans, and any number of other groups all sought to define the lifestyle that would ultimately lead to happiness. I find their answers incomplete, but I admire that they tried to find knowledge that would lead to a life well lived. Is that not what happiness is?

I'm not much better than my predecessors though. I can't do a very good job of describing what that is, but I seem to know it when I see it. Fortunately my intuition regarding my own happiness seems to have been pretty good so far - as long as I keep my head in the present. Of this I am certain of - you will find happiness neither in the past nor in the future. Whatever or wherever it is, it is today. Always look there first and look no further.