by Natalie Yuhas
The Happiness Project campaign and Happiness Talks, put on through UGBC and the Office of Health Promotion, is based on the book by Gretchen Rubin and focuses on both what it means to be genuinely happy to each of us as individuals and small acts of kindness. As the keynote speaker on Thursday, February 23 for the Happiness Project Talk, Fr. Himes addressed a full crowd of students on what happiness means to him. Other speakers included three students who addressed what it means to them to find their genuine happiness and what challenges they have faced along the way.
Fr. Himes first defined the difference between happiness and joy. He explained that happiness is dependent on many external circumstances, but that true happiness, or joy, comes from
within. Joy, he argued, can exist without happiness.
To explain his point, Fr. Himes used St. Augustine as an example of an “expert of happiness.” In Confessions, Augustine feels unhappy and struggles to find the source of his unhappiness. For Augustine to figure out what happiness means, Fr. Himes argues, he has to make the important discovery that “true happiness can never be built around yourself,” but must be built around how much we wish others well and how much we are willing to do for another to make them happy. Happiness built around yourself is empty and will always be a source of discontent. Similarly, happiness cannot be the end goal; it is something we must find along the way as a bi-product.
The way that Augustine discovers happiness is when his mother, Monica, says that you cannot wander far from God, because no place is far from God. Through focusing on Monica, Augustine finally discovers what will make him happy.
Fr. Himes elaborated on what it means to find happiness, or rather joy, through others. He advised that we have to spend a lot of time observing what makes another person who they are and what gives them joy, and then our job is to see that their joy becomes our joy. Happiness, he emphasized again, is only really found when given away.
The last piece of advice Fr. Himes gave was to acknowledge that we are not perfect and that there will always be a part of ourselves, which he called the “spectator self” that is selfish and wants happiness for our own gain. Quoting the poem “As I walk out one evening” by W.H. Auden, Himes said that you must “love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart,” and realize that your heart is crooked.
As parting words, Fr. Himes reiterated that through being the cause of happiness for another, we discover that we are actually the ones who are happy. “Give it a try,” he recommended. “If you find it is the secret to happiness, don’t keep it a secret.”