An Institute for Happiness
THE CONTRIBUTORS’ CLUB
IF Mr. Bok — may his tribe increase — were to establish An Institute of Happiness, I should apply for the position of president. I know the rules and the technique and the etiquette of happiness, as Mr. Work or Mr. Foster knows the rules of Auction, or as Mr. Snyder or Mr. Haar knows Ma-Jung, or Mah Jong, or Pung Chow. As the latter gentlemen will free the faithful from the odium of following the sordid pastime of the low coolie and direct him to the heights of the true ceremonial ancient Chinese rite, — rules, symbols, nomenclature, and all, — so I will guarantee no dallying in the superficial and fictitious puddles of Pollyannaism, but will lead on to the very pools of Siloam, as it were, where followers may, if they will, be cleansed from the leprosy of dejection, pessimism, and discontent.
I hold no panacea; I claim no Ponce de León heritage; I have had no spirit-transmission; no secret formula is in my possession; I have no touchstone of bien être; no magic whatever is mine; yet dare I undertake the teaching of happiness.
Note, however, that it is an extensive course. Those who would matriculate should comprehend the scope of their undertaking. The schools in this art range from the primary through the preparatory and the academic, to the college, the university, and the universe. Nevertheless, the courses are as simple, as logical, as delightful, and as certain of acquirement, as the end to be attained would imply.
As the head of this Happiness Foundation, I already have a small, but incomparable, faculty in mind. It would be impossible to deduce from these members what qualities or habits or convictions would render one eligible to this corps of administrators. It would be impossible to say that there would be no preachers, no poets, no prophets, no psychoanalysts, artists, grave-diggers, tight-rope dancers, moralists, physicists, scientists, editors, dreamers. It would be equally impossible to say that any of these professions would be represented. It would be difficult to say what would constitute qualifications in instructors, though the Head of the Institution would, nevertheless, select the staff unfalteringly.
As to the curriculum, while the subjects taught are, seemingly, as manifold as the demands of the students, they prove themselves in the end few and fundamental. The doctrine to be inculcated deals faithfully with the minutely individual, though the attainment of a doctor’s degree proves a grasp of the racial.
Are you — or do you believe yourself— unhappy because of any of the following reasons?
Or the content, positive or negative, of any of the above.
If so, you should, in person, or by correspondence, communicate yourself to this Institution if it existed, and have access to the wisdom of specialists.
Here is a world — if not, indeed, a universe — with everything that heart can desire — except happiness. Is anyone trying to set right this lack? Are the teachers? Assuredly not. They are too busy teaching unessential facts. The preachers? They are involved — or so their followers believe — in inculcating the doctrine, ‘Be good and you will be happy ‘; whereas the foundation stone of the Institute of Happiness is ‘Be happy, and you will be good.’ Are the poets and writers teaching this one essential? In the main, these are too hidden by the smoke of their own battle to be discernible to the needy. Are the scientists? The professional leaders? The explorers? The tillers of the soil? Too intent, all, on their own ends, to consider happiness. One and all cannot see the woods for the trees.
Happiness is made up of no achievement. It is compounded of no ingredients. It is the flower neither of sickness nor of health. It will not result from the most exalted aspirations, per se. It comes neither of good repute, nor of popularity, nor of distinction.
But if I were to state, either in a sentence or in a volume, what happiness is, and how it is to be come by, every precious atom of the elixir would be lost — dissipated, scattered by a naughty world. That is why I recommend to Mr. Bok to establish a Foundation of Happiness.
Yes, if World Peace is established through Mr. Bok’s award, I might consent to consider the Institute of Happiness as a department — a subsidiary institution. But let there be no interference in my field. Peace is not happiness, though it is a better soil than strife or contention in which to grow the precious plant. An international amity may be brought about, if at all, by statesmen, theorists, seers, politicians; but happiness, indeed, is quite another matter. It demands an insight, an inspiration, a knowledge, an experience, and, withal, a control and poise, that can be expected only of its discoverer, which is to say, of ME.