I was also very interested to hear what Heather King had to say specifically on the subject of happiness.
What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Prayer. “Simple,” yet it requires my whole mind, strength, body, heart, soul. For me, prayer is not so much an activity as a way of being; a stance toward life—and death.
What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
That happiness, such as it is, consists in self-forgetting. In having an all-consuming goal that you are never, in this life, going to fully attain. For me, that’s getting close to Christ. Writing is my vocation, so it’s being an excellent writer. And to be an excellent writer requires all of myself. It requires living my entire life, physically, emotionally, spiritually, out of love. I’m fairly disciplined, but the discipline comes not because I think the discipline is going to make me happy, but from love. I’m an addict to the core. So if I’m trying to figure out what will make me feel better, what will make me happy, I’m going to be perpetually flitting from thing to thing. Booze makes me happy—for ten minutes. Candy makes me happy—for ten minutes. Sex makes me happy—for ten minutes. So I have to find something way way deeper to sustain me—no matter how I “feel.”
Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Making happiness a goal. Comparing my “happiness” to the perceived happiness of others. Happiness is a byproduct of abandonment and self-surrender to God. Actually, I’m not sure happiness is what I’m really after. Happiness to me is a mood, and a mood that is largely dependent on outside circumstances: whether I have money in the bank, whether the sun is shining, whether I’m healthy. Any way of life where I’m dependent on what happens outside of me, I’m sunk.
What I’m after is joy, and joy has pain—our pain and the sorrow of the whole world—in the middle of it. Joy, unlike happiness, becomes a state that you may experience only in fleeting stabs, but nonetheless abides. Mother Teresa experienced a fifty-year dark night of the soul, and yet all who met her were struck by her quiet, light-filled joy. So you can be in complete spiritual aridity and darkness, yet still have joy. You can “feel” no happiness at all, but you can still abide in joy...
Read the rest of the interview over on Happiness-Project.com.