Happiness is a Choice

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their mind to be. This was said by Abraham Lincoln, a major depressive who had good cause for grief, but slogged along until someone put a bullet in his head at the age of 56.

We’d rather believe that conditions outside us determine our emotional state. Nothing could be further from the truth. “If only I had…then I’d be happy” statements abound, especially in a world saturated with commerce and advertising.

Again, it’s a lie, although a convenient one. It spawns all sorts of spending and getting, grasping and discarding, hours of longing and days of remorse.

There’s a period Freud called “latency” which occurs just before adolescence kicks in. Children in this blissful state are not yet preoccupied with being popular or attractive. They are no longer babies, yet not yet teenagers. Their bodies have not yet begun to grow in surprising spurts, and by the most part they aren’t awkward. Even though they don’t know it, they are going through a very lucky period that, unfortunately, doesn’t last long.

Apparently, Abraham Lincoln was renowned for his ugliness. He was often compared to an ape. It doesn’t seem he let that fact overly discourage him. It must have taken a certain amount of self-esteem to successfully run for President.

Hopefully, he made up his mind to be as happy as he wanted to be in the time he had. He was a damn good writer. Wrote the Gettysburg address on the back of an envelope on his way to the event. At the actual ceremony, almost nobody heard him give his short speech, for Stephen Douglas who went on before him had spoken for more than an hour, and the crowd was exhausted. In fact, a lot of people didn’t even realize Lincoln was speaking, as there were no public address sound systems at the time. It was only when the newspapers printed his speech the following day that it attracted attention.

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