Happiness. Islands in the South Pacific, palm trees, blissful sunshine, golden beaches, a turquoise sea spangled with silver, cocktails, a balmy breeze and… happiness? contentment? inner peace?
John Lennon allegedly said: "When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life."
I don't expect the teachers were particularly thrilled by this reply! However despite the fact that this quote is cited as some sort of inspiration for spiritual enlightenment in certain places on the internet, I don’t believe John was right when he said this. And interestingly, from all the material that I have come across on the life of John Lennon, it is thought he was probably at his happiest when he was playing with his friends up the tree in the grounds of the children's home, Strawberry Fields, in Liverpool.
The pursuit of happiness puts me in mind of a brilliant book I read called “Finding Sanctuary” by Abbot Christopher Jamieson. In this book he talks about how we wear numerous masks during our lives, and in pursuit of happiness we constantly seek products which the advertising industry tells us are going to make us happy. We long for peace and a state of calm and inner contentment, and we seek it through more products, such as holidays. In fact we can never escape from the compulsion to seek the fulfilment of our ultimate longings within a product of some kind.
Being reflective about all this is a good step on the journey to seeking some kind of release from this compulsive drive. It has been said by a doctor that everyone needs to go on retreat once a year (and of course Abbot Christopher was the one who featured in that TV programme The Monastery about the men who went on retreat). Though it could be argued that even a retreat is a product!
I write this as I am just about to consume a product – a week’s holiday in Bavaria – and launch four products myself – 2 books and 2 ebooks – and am thinking of using marketing techniques tried and tested by the advertising industry – the Mr Bigs of this world. In fact when I think about it all, I could despair, except for one saving grace, most surely a gift of God, that helps us keep it all in perspective – a sense of humour!