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The seventy-seven essays in this collection borrow bits of wisdom from throughout the ages. They are designed to inspire and comfort readers, as well as to stimulate some deep thinking about some very ordinary ideas.
Growing up on an Indiana farm, I began doing a lot of thinking about life at an early age. Like everybody else, I wanted to be happy, so I started trying to figure out what I could do to make life better. My mother and father were very different in the way they thought about life. Mom always saw the glass of life as half full, whereas Dad saw it as half empty. My mother had more than her fair share of troubles in life, from the day her father died in the 1918 flu epidemic, when she was only three years old, until she died at age 94. Yet she managed to be reasonably happy a great deal of the time, and she was the most loving person I have ever known.
Thinking deeply about life became a basic part of who I am early in life, and my philosophy has gradually evolved over the years. About 17 years ago, I began to feel an urge to start writing down some of my thoughts about life. That led to my self-syndicated newspaper column, “Contemplating Life,” which I have been writing every week since July 1994.
I have become convinced that happiness is a journey—not a destination. Instead of going through life always focusing on some mythical time period in the future when we hope to have most of the things we think we need to be happy, we need to focus on trying to be as happy as possible each and every day. Nobody has ever traveled an unhappy journey to a happy destination. Life just does not work that way. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I think most people are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I think Lincoln hit the nail squarely on the head with that statement. Our way of thinking about life is more important than the actual circumstances of our lives in determining how happy we will be.
The seventy-seven essays in this collection borrow bits of wisdom from throughout the ages. They are designed to inspire and comfort readers, as well as to stimulate some deep thinking about some very ordinary ideas. The essays can be read in any order since each one stands alone. Readers who are looking for something specific can get a general idea of the content of each essay from its lead quotation. A list of theme-setting lead quotations is provided at the beginning of the book. Readers, not looking for something specific, are invited to browse the book and choose individual essays at random.
“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.”
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a beautiful garden on a warm and bright summer day, with singing birds and colorful butterflies propelling themselves from flower to flower in search of the sweetest pol-len. How does such a scene make you feel? Does it stimulate feelings of happiness, tranquility, and peace of mind? It does for me.
Now open your eyes and reflect on those feelings for a moment. Then, close your eyes again and imagine the very same garden on a cold and dark winter day. The flowers are all dead, there are no butterflies, and the only bird you hear is a scolding blue jay. How do you feel in this set-ting? Do you still feel happy and tranquil? I’m guessing that you do not.
What you have just experienced is probably the closest we can come to making an analogy to the difference between a life filled with love and a life where love is absent. Love is the sunshine of life. Where love abounds, there will be happiness, tranquility, and peace of mind, except during those times when these feelings are overwhelmed by personal trag-edy. Where love is absent, there will likely be feelings of emptiness, anxi-ety, and darkness.
The difference between a life filled with love and a life where love is lacking is very much like the difference between a warm, sunny summer day and a bleak winter day. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring.”
Noted psychologist, Dr. Joyce Brothers, said, “Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.” When you love a person, that person’s happiness is absolutely essential to your own happiness. You care as much, or more, about the other person’s happiness as you do about your own. You don’t try to make a clone of yourself out of them. You love them for who they are and don’t try to change them to be more like your-self. You give to a person whom you love without necessarily expecting them to give you something in return.