Four Stories of Happiness
Alison turned 17 today. The Beach Boys have just released a new song called California Girls. Alison likes to think that the song is about her. She is pretty, very pretty. When she looks at herself in the mirror, she sees her shoulder length blond hair separated in the middle, her tanned and perfect complexion, and her big and sparkling blue eyes. She went to the beach this morning with her mother’s new convertible T-Bird. She played volleyball with her friends, and she watched her boyfriend as he was surfing the waves. Apart from being the best surfer around, her handsome boyfriend is also the quarterback of her high school football team. All the girls would like him to be their boyfriend, but she’s the one he chose. Tonight, there will be a birthday party for Allison. Everybody will be there. They will play her song and they will dance. Alison is an extremely happy girl.
Alison is 67, two years older than me. Listening to that old song by The Beach Boys must bring back a lot of memories, memories of her ‘glory days’ as Bruce Springsteen put it in a one of his best songs. I wonder what makes her happy now. I wonder if she’s still happy.
She was pregnant when they left Vietnam as refugees in 1975. Their daughter was born in Sherbrooke a few months after they arrived in Canada. After studying French full time for nine months, he started working in a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant while she worked as a cleaner in a hotel. In Vietnam, he was a teacher; she was studying to become a lawyer. Today is a great day for them. They are attending the graduation ceremony of their daughter Thuy Trang or Valérie. Tears of joy slowly roll down their cheeks as they tenderly look at each other and smile. From now on, their daughter will be known as Dr. Nguyen. They are very happy.
She is not wearing black. She’s wearing a white dress. She’s also wearing a white band around her head. Her husband passed away yesterday. Not even his daughter could save him. They say he died with a smile on his face. Of course, she is sad, very sad, but there is also a part of her that is happy. She’s happy for the life they had together, even if it was too short. It’s always too short when you are happy. She’s also happy because he was the first one to go. She knows how much his happiness depended on her. She also believes that somewhere, somehow, they will be reunited. She believes in her heart and soul that love is stronger than death.
A few months ago, he was elected President of his country, the richest and most powerful on earth. Today is the inauguration ceremony. In order to get here, he was able to convince a bunch of disgruntled and desperate people that he had their interest at heart. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He became president to satisfy his own ego, and to become richer. Some say he’s the greatest con artist in the history of the world. He’s happy. He’s beaming. The only shadow is that the crowd doesn’t appear to be big as for the inauguration ceremony of his predecessor nine years ago. He brushes it aside by telling himself, “What the heck! I’m going to tell them that my crowd was bigger. They’ll believe me. They always do. What a bunch of idiot losers! There is no reason not to be happy on the greatest day of my life.” A journalist who interviewed him some twenty years ago concluded that “he had managed to achieve something remarkable: an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul.”
There is a new president in the White House. He was born on December 20, 2017. He’s the youngest president since Kennedy. He is the grandson of an illegal immigrant from Honduras. His wife is a Muslim from Somalia who came to the country with her parents when she was only a child. They are very happy in their new home. There is only one thing. Their children are afraid to sleep alone in their bedrooms. They say that they have seen something that resembles an orange wig floating in the air at night. Could it be the ghost of the man who became the most powerful in the world by denying the existence of his own soul? It is Jesus who said, "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose their soul." Can a man disconnected from his soul be able to find true happiness?
As usual, he took the bus to go to work, but he still has to walk about fifteen minutes to get here. He looks a little bit like me but younger and with more hair. As much as I envy his hair I don’t envy his life. He got drunk again last night. He knows that his breath smells of alcohol. He doesn’t feel good. He knows that if he doesn’t put an end to this, he will lose his job and even his life, but he doesn’t know how. That’s when he feels an inexplicable joy growing inside him. He has the assurance that he will be free and happy. He doesn’t know when and how but he knows that it will come.
He is happier than he expected he would ever be. He’s happy with what he was able to do and is still able to do with his life. He’s happy with his wife and their two cats. He’s happy when he comes in contact with nature, when he is kayaking, hiking, skiing. He’s happy when he reads, writes or listens to music, all kinds of music. He’s happy, but even after all those years, he has to keep telling himself that there is no use trying to carry the pain and sorrow of the world upon his shoulders. For all kinds of reasons, happiness doesn’t come easy to him, but he’s working on it, and most of the time, I have to admit that he’s doing a pretty good job.