The problem of ‘Happy’
In the weeks before Christmas just past, when I was writing greetings cards to the many friends we haven’t seen or communicated with regularly or recently, it felt more appropriate to wish them hope than happiness…. Indeed is it ever right to assume happiness is uppermost in the minds of far-flung friends? After such a year, who knows what might have happened in their lives? Floods, fires, and hurricanes are commoner, Covid and its consequences lurks throughout the world.
Hope fitted better. Even though, or possibly because, I found myself dragged down by the dark damp weather, and the short days, into a feeling of hopelessness. I’ve travelled to South Africa and the USA, and several European countries, but never to any that were politically dangerous or thoroughly disorganised. I’ve lived in this country, where I was born, all my life, (except for a few months in Canada). It was a good place to grow up and a good place to raise children – or it appeared to be. What is happening here now, when peaceful protest might become criminalised? When desperate people might be sent back into the sea if they arrive alive on our beaches in fragile rubber boats? Is this exaggerated reporting? It is not.
And adding that Covid shows no signs of disappearing any time soon, how could we simply wish each other ‘Happy’ Christmas or New Year, as if this ill-defined feeling of ‘happiness’ should rest upon them, no matter what? Christmas and New Year, increasingly tied into expectation, festivities on a grand scale, sumptuous food, flowing drink, presents, treats, socialising, the works, supposedly creating happiness? Without these, wouldn’t most people feel resentful, without reason to be ‘happy’? Maybe they ‘shouldn’t’ but it’s hard to have your pleasures taken away – two years running – (or so the media say). What was that song, long ago? ‘Wishing and hoping’?
So, our cards wished our far-flung friends ‘All best for a hopeful New Year’.
Can Hope replace Happiness? Might Hope even put Happiness back in our hearts?
Hope implies looking forwards towards a better time, rather than backwards to an imagined expectation.
Hope involves setting achievable ‘goals’, available and achievable to all, not only to those who already have the resources.
Hope is realised when we all work towards creating a more liveable world for everyone
Hope includes adopting a mindset which accepts the ‘other’ whoever they are, whatever ‘minority’, religion, ethnicity, and listening to opposing viewpoints, and responding with personal restraint to ideas we personally may not agree with.
Hope must use facts, in another word, truth, rather than fudges and lies – or it is not hope but a sop or a fantasy.
Whatever else, Hope can’t be used as a trope or a meme. It is a word of action, or it is meaningless. Hope creates travelling companions such as compassion, kindness, or joy, each of these relying on hope to initiate the effort involved. Hope works collaboratively, and brings light into a situation.
With hope, real life may be calling us to make good things happen.
(By the way, a happy peaceful Christmas & New Year was held here, somewhat scaled down & using Zoom… and I am hoping to publish a selection of short stories soon…watch the News page…)
*A couple of thoughts about ‘hope’, from writers long ago:
Sustain me as You promised, that I may live; let me not be ashamed of my hope…
Romans 5 v 5
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.