In it, he quotes from Lin Yutang's book Importance of Living, "In this world of ours, happiness is very often negative, the complete absence of sorrow or mortification or bodily ailment."
Stein goes on to say,
No creditor at the door and nobody sick is happiness enough for the wise. Lin supports his statement by the testimony of his expert witness, Chin Shengt'an, a 17th century Chinese writer who enumerated 33 happy moments in his life.He then presents two of those 33 moments:
I wake up in the morning and seem to hear someone in the house sighing and saying that last night someone died. I immediately ask to find out who it is,and learn that it is the sharpest, most calculating fellow in town. Ah, is this not happiness?
I am drinking on a winter's night, and suddenly note the night has turned extremely cold. I push open the window and see that snowflakes come down the size of a palm and there are already three or four inches of snow on the ground. Ah, is this not happiness?When it comes to thinking about happiness and what makes people happy, we wonder if the people around us are happy. I do, regularly, if not all the time. And I know for a fact they wonder about me as well because they ask me. Even my son - especially when he knows he's done something to upset me.
What most of us also do is maintain long lists of all the things that make us unhappy. We keep score - against family, friends, colleagues, bosses, the weather, the mailman, the traffic. On any given day, we can rattle of five or ten things that turn us off. We don't really have to think about it too hard.
But do we spare any time at all to wonder what makes us happy? Should we? Is it a frivolous exercise, indulgent even? If we have to sit down and think about what makes us happy, then does it imply that we are generally not happy? And although I don't know how old Shengt'an was when he enumerated the happy ocassions of his life, doesn't 33 sound like an awfully low number?
Well, frivolous or not, indulgent or not, I'm thinking it'll be a lot of fun to tabulate the good stuff, the stuff that makes us happy. It doesn't have to be specific instances. For example, in my case, now that I think about it, one of the things that makes me really happy is when someone laughs (genuinely, of course) at something I've said. The other thing is to see my son's flushed cheeks and twinkling eyes when he's had a good time running around with his friends in the park.
What makes you happy?
Update: Ravi over at Carpe Diem has taken this further and this is what he has to say.