Writers of every age have endeavored to show that pleasure is in us and not in the object
offered for our amusement. If the soul be happily disposed, everything becomes capable of
affording entertainment, and distress will almost want a name.
The fountain of content must spring up in the mind, and he who seeks happiness by changing
anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the griefs
which he purports to remove.
Man is, in all respects, constituted to be happy. Hence it is that he sees goodness around him
in proportion to the goodness that is within him; and it is also for this reason that when he
calls the evil that is within him outside of him it also appears so. If man, therefore, chooses
that which does not seem to him good, he can, in a measure, enjoy it. One of the most evident
differences between the enjoyment of what is good and true and that which is false and evil, is
that the first leaves something to be re-enjoyed in memory and after life, while the latter
leaves regret, disappointment and suffering.
A great part of the infelicity of men arises not so much from their situations or circumstances
as from their pride, vanity and ambitious expectations. In order to be happy, these
dispositions must be subdued; we must always keep before our eyes such views of the world as
shall prevent our expecting more from it than it is designed to afford. We destroy our joys by
devouring them beforehand with too eager expectation. We ruin the happiness of life when we
attempt to raise it too high. Menedemus was told one day that it was a great felicity to have
whatever we desire. "Yes," said he, "but it is a much greater felicity to desire nothing but
what we have."
The idea has been transmitted from generation to generation that happiness is one large and
beautiful precious stone - a single gem, so rare that all search after it is all vain effort, fruitless
and hopeless. It is not so. Happiness is a mosaic, composed of many smaller stones. Each taken
apart and viewed singly may be of little value, but when all are grouped together and
judiciously combined and se, they form a pleasing and graceful whole, a costly jewel.
Trample not under foot then the little pleasures which a gracious Providence scatters in the
daily path while you are in eager search after some great and exciting joy.
If you go to creation to make you happy, the earth will tell you that happiness grows not in the
furrows of the fields; the sea that it is not in the treasures of the deep; cattle will say, "It is not
on our backs;" crowns will say, "It is too precious a gem to be found in us."
We can adorn the head, but we cannot satisfy the heart. Happiness is in us, not in things. If
happiness consisted in things only, there would be no end to the numberless kinds of it. It was
in this point of view that the erudite Roman writer, Varro, enumerated seven hundred sorts of
happiness. So, also, the learned Turkish doctor, Ebn Abbas, maintained that the number of
grievous sins is about seven hundred, thus balancing the accounts between good and ill.
We talk of wealth, fame and power as undeniable sources of enjoyment, and limited fortune,
obscurity and insignificance as incompatible with felicity. It is thus that there is a remarkable
distinction between acquisitions and conditions, theoretically considered, and practically
proved. However brilliant they may be in speculation, wealth, fame and power are found in
possession impotent to confer felicity. However decried in prospect, limited fortunes,
obscurity, insignificance, are by experience proved most friendly to human happiness. Le
Droz, who wrote a treatise upon happiness, describes the conditions necessary for it as
consisting of the greatest fortitude to resist and endure the ills and pains of life, united with
the keenest sensibility to enjoy its pleasures and delights.
"Health, peace and competence," is a popular definition of happiness. Yet thousands, and tens
of thousands, possess these great blessings and are not happy, nay, will not allow that they
have the means to be happy. Madame de Stael, in here "Delphine," defines happiness to
consist in the absence of misery. How many human beings are without one single real evil, and
yet complain of their fate.
There is little real happiness on earth because we seek it not aright - we seek it where it is not,
in outward circumstance and external good, and neglect to seek it, where alone it dwells, in
the close chambers of the bosom. We would have a happiness in time, independent of eternity;
we would have it independent of the Being whose it is to give; and so we go forth, each one as
best we may, to seek out the rich possession for ourselves. But disappointment attends every
step in the pursuit of happiness, until we seek it where alone it can be found. The original
curse is still resting upon us. The cherubim, with their flaming swords, still guard the gates of
Paradise, and no man enters therein.
"But foolish mortals still pursue
False happiness in place of true;
A happiness we toil to find,
Which still pursues us like the wind."
The Royal Path of Life - Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness - 1882 by T.L. Haines & L.W. Yaggy