Happiness as it is dreamed of cannot possibly exist save for brief periods of self-deception which are followed by terrible periods of reaction. Real, practicable happiness is due primarily not to any kind of environment, but to an inward state of mind. Real happiness consists first in acceptance of the fact that discontent is a condition of life, and, second, in an honest endeavour to adjust conduct to an ideal. Real happiness is not an affair of the future; it is an affair of the present. Such as it is, if it cannot be obtained now, it can never be obtained. Real happiness lives in patience, having comprehended that if very little is accomplished towards perfection, so a man’s existence is a very little moment in the vast expanse of the universal life, and having also comprehended that it is the struggle which is vital, and that the end of the struggle is only another name for death.
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“Well,” I hear you exclaiming, “if this is all we can look forward to, if this is all that real, practicable happiness amounts to, is life worth living?” That is a question which each person has to answer for himself. If he answers it in the negative, no argument, no persuasion, no sentimentalisation of the facts of life, will make him alter his opinion. Most people, however, answer it in the affirmative. Despite all the drawbacks, despite all the endless disappointments, they decide that life is worth living. There are two species of phenomena which bring them to this view. The first may be called the golden moments of life, which seem somehow in their transient brevity to atone for the dull exasperation of interminable mediocre hours: moments of triumph in the struggle, moments of fierce exultant resolve; moments of joy in nature—moments which defy oblivion in the memory, and which, being priceless, cannot be too dearly bought.
The second species of compensatory phenomena are all the agreeable experiences connected with human friendship; the general feeling, under diverse forms, that one is not alone in the world. It is for the multiplication and intensification of these phenomena that Christmas, the Feast of St. Friend, exists. And, on the last day of the year, on the eve of a renewed effort, our thoughts may profitably be centered upon a plan of campaign whose execution shall result in a less imperfect intercourse.
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