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Happy Family

February 22, 2015

I was recently asked who I would choose if I could have a different mother than the one I have.  I don’t have an active imagination, so I could only answer that this was not possible.  When we are growing up, the only family that we know is our own.  We assume that other families are like our own.  We have no standard for comparison, not even the happy families that appear on television; these are fictional, after all.  If we have an abusive family, we believe that all of them are like that.  If we have a loving family, we believe that all the others are like that too.  My family was a complex mixture, but I have no doubt that both of my parents were doing the best they could do.  I can’t ask for more than that.

I was supposed to choose a celebrity to be my substitute mother.  I don’t follow the lives of celebrities, but I do know that many of them went through a series of marriages and divorces.  They often had several families too.  Those can’t be happy families.  The celebrity might be very wealthy, too.  Having that sort of mother didn’t appeal to me at all.

There is a well-known saying that money doesn’t buy happiness.  This is actually not true.  Just ask people who don’t have any money.  They will tell you that money will bring them happiness.  Here’s what’s really true: an adequate amount of money does bring happiness.  More money will not bring more happiness.

This revised understanding has more to do with the nature of happiness than with the nature of money.  Happiness and unhappiness are not mirror images, one positive and the other negative.  There are many degrees of unhappiness.  You can be somewhat unhappy or desperately unhappy.  There’s only one degree of happiness.  You are either happy or not.  You can’t be more happy.

So, once you have achieved happiness, don’t go looking for more of it.  You won’t find it.  It’s time to think about other people or other things in this world.


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