The measure of happiness

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Well, we missed the Golden Anniversary of a major icon in the history of the world. We slipped into the fifty-first year, with nary a twitch, or even a nod, towards a face and a phrase which have impacted us all.

In 1963, graphic artist and ad man Harvey Ball was retained to design an art piece to improve the sagging morale at an insurance company. In just ten minutes, his design was complete and he collected his $45 fee. 

Not seeing the benefit of copyrighting such an insignificant effort, it was available for anyone’s use. What he designed was the ubiquitous “Happy Face; “ that bright yellow, round, smiling, face found on millions of buttons, t-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, and refrigerator magnets, along with a smorgasbord of other items, which world-wide entrepreneurs proffered to an eager public.

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The Happy Face, or Smiley Face, was later coupled with the expression, “Have a Good Day,” evolving into a major part of the counter-symbolism of the Vietnam War. The over use of the much -needed message, generated myriad parodies, including re-design and alteration. It became social anathema to wish a person, “Have a good day,” as the overuse denigrated the impact of the words. Even so, most of us continue to say this to others, or use some iteration of it: “Have a great day,” “Have a fine day,” or “Be cool today.” It is a rare person who does not hear this warm wish at the bank, restaurant or store. Parents often use it when they send their children off to school. Husbands and wives regularly express it in their parting.

 Lest we think we have evolved into another social dimension and have, somehow, risen above the legacy of our prior years, we may be brought up short by understanding the “Emoticons.” For the uninitiated, these are not some form space alien or foreign disease, but a way of expressing one’s mood at the sending of an email, or text message. In earlier days, it was left to the creativity of the typist to conjure up the rudimentary graphics. (:>), became the new “Happy Face,” (;>) added a wink, (:<( became a frown.  Of course, there are many others, each projecting an emotion. There are many which can be used, with some now made available by software applications and email providers. These too are becoming something of an anathema, in their overuse.

Yet, it seems to be an innate part of our humanity, as a counter-point to our insistence on un-happiness, to wish ourselves, and each other, well. 

Happiness is that fleeting commodity, much as the veil of mist on an early morning. 

We have it for only the briefest of moments and soon retire to the onslaught of the negativity around and within ourselves. 

Each of us, of course, has a different definition of what happiness is. To a child, it may be the comfort of love from the family around them, or a lick from a puppy. To the adult, it may be measured in a bank balance, a relationship, possessions, or career. It is clear, from the essential emotions of our natures; we seek a certain balance, a certain centering, to remain “happy.”

What makes us unhappy, is being knocked out of balance, out of the center of our state of happy pleasure. Naturists will profess we need only look to ourselves for our happiness; our joy in life is found only with guidance from within themselves. 

Yet, the super naturalist acknowledges the presence of the Divine within themselves, to guide them to the essentials of true happiness. It is a pivotal choice in our pursuit of having a good day. 

Have a blessed day. 

By: Fr. Jonathan Filkins