Over the weekend I had the opportunity to revisit some old episodes of the "The Tudors" (a television drama produced by Showtime). In later episodes the viewer is introduced to the Earl of Surrey- Henry Howard, who is renowned for various talents including that of poet. Amongst his works is The Means to Attain a Happy Life.
MARTIAL, the things that do attain The happy life, be these, I find : The riches left, not got with pain ; The fruitful ground, the quiet mind : The equal friend, no grudge, no strife ; No charge of rule, nor governance ; Without disease, the healthful life ; The household of continuance : The mean diet, no delicate fare ; True wisdom join'd with simpleness ; The night discharged of all care, Where wine the wit may not oppress : The faithful wife, without debate ; Such sleeps as may beguile the night. Contented with thine own estate ; Ne wish for Death, ne fear his might. (1) In simple yet impressive language the poet has effectively communicated his thoughts on how he believes he would obtain some degree of contentment in his life. The pursuit of such sentiments is still real today as it was in the 1500's, and the occasion brought to mind issue #14 of Case magazine, which explored the topic of seeking happiness.
Readers will find this edition of Case interesting, as author Ben Cooper explores a concept known as 'happiness stagnation' in his article "Money and the Pursuit of Happiness." The author's research highlighted survey data which concluded "...that once a nation has reached a certain level of prosperity further economic growth seems to have little or no impact on the average levels of happiness."
The article goes on to discuss whether happiness stagnation can be resolved, but also counter the idea that the Christian gospel is opposed to happiness:
....we need to be clear that the Christian gospel is pro-happiness—good news of great joy—and not necessarily anti-material. To enjoy material blessings thankfully, as good gifts within a loving relationship with our heavenly Father is indeed one of the constituents of true happiness. It is only when our love of money supplants our love of God (and thereby love of neighbour) that we have a problem.
Cooper concluded that discontentment with what we have leads to envy and the pursuit of more. This discontentment is alas deeply rooted in our hearts, and thus we cannot solve the problems that surround our discontentment on our own. He however concludes on a happier note- reminding the reader of Luke 2:10-11:
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you.
God himself has intervened in the world and in reconciling us to himself he will reverse our discontentment that leads to unhappiness, envy, emptiness and ultimately to death.
Re-reading edition #14 of Case is well worth it, as the publication has several other articles that explore the theme of happiness. Mike Wilson provides a summary of the Dalai Lama, and his teaching and its impact upon concept of the meaning of' life and happiness in the Western world. His article entitled "The Dalai Lama's long road to happiness" also offers a Christian response to his teachings. You may also enjoy Kel Richards article which looks at the very etymology of the word 'happiness' and its appropriateness in the biblical vocabulary.
Case Subscribers may enjoy retrieving their copies of "Seeking Happiness" (Case #14) published 2008 and view the articles to which I refer to in this post. Our most recent magazine Case #32 entitled Believing Science, has been available for the last month, it too is well worth a read. For blog followers who are yet to become CASE Associates you can subscribe HERE or order a single copy of edition #14 or 32 HERE.
Send CASE an email (1) Surrey, Henry Howard, Earl of. The Poetical Works of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854. 57.