My birthday is right after Christmas; I had the best birthday present in some years because all four of my children were home. Home last year was San Clemente, California . . . whereas home this year is Wake Forest, North Carolina. Surreal, but then home is always where Mama is, right?
One afternoon I had a very interesting conversation with Danny who just finished school in Boston! Rah---! He said he would go anywhere I wanted since we had an hour just the two of us. So of course, I took him to the Tractor Supply Store. While on our way, Danny referenced a required course he took that was quite meaningful - a class on happiness. “I’m going to dig into it more in the New Year now that I’m through with all the homework,” he said. “You should check it out too, Mom, I think you would find it interesting.” Hmmm. . .
A few days later on the elliptical machine at the gym, I decided to research a little about Danny’s class content. Like it or hate it, Youtube is an invaluable resource, so I went there first. Sure enough, I could watch Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar talk about Happiness using the acronym SPIRE as a mechanism to analyze and then increase one’s happiness quotient.
S - spiritual
P - physical
I - intellectual
R - relational
E - emotional
Oh, that’s so good, isn’t it? If we intentionally grow in each of these areas, giving priority to our wellness/happiness quest, surely we will be happy, right? Maybe…maybe not.
Let’s just say I was off to the races. In another clip, an interviewer asked Dr. Tal a pointed question: so since you have made a study of happiness, are you happy? (undergraduate degree from Harvard in philosophy and psychology, Masters degree and PhD - all trying to get at “Why aren’t I happy? How can I become happier?”) His answer: Well within that question is the word ‘quest’ - the beginning of our journey… Am I happy? Thirty years later, I don’t know…today I am a lot happier, and 10 years from now I certainly hope I am a lot happier than I am today. … It is a lifelong journey, and it will end when life ends. I think.’ What??!
Checking out the good doctor’s website, I learned of a free Zoom call about how nutrition impacts wellness and happiness (the P in SPIRE-taking care of our physical selves) and joined a few hundred other people from around the world--it was really interesting.1 Dr. Tal is an intelligent, engaging, gentle soul who fascinates and challenges me on one hand and saddens me tremendously on another.
‘Why could he not say he is happy?’
As I have stepped a little closer, Dr. Tal’s quest is going to fall short every time because of a flawed model: SPIRE. The ‘spiritual’ is defined as “leading a meaningful life and savoring the present”.
He is not alone in his very limited definition of being spiritual, I’m afraid. Missing from the spiritual is the most important element: God, our Creator, our Designer. Missing from this discussion is an eternal perspective.
We can live a very disciplined life, being intentional with caring for our physical, intellectual and emotional selves, growing meaningful relationships, but if we do not include a view of the world that includes the existence and love of God and the promise of Heaven when we die, we will come up vacant every time.
In the beginning, God2 … created us in His image3, and set eternity into the hearts of mankind4. It is God who tells us who we are and what we are meant for, what happens when we die. Any quest for happiness leaving God out will be limited at best.
In the next few briefings, we are going to consider what Jesus meant when he said to Seek first the kingdom of God,5 and why that is the right starting place to discover happiness in daily life and inner joy that cannot be taken away.
On point song: The Blessing,
Love these clarifying words of Jesus: Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6.33
1 - The author of This is Your Brain on Food, Dr. Uma Naidoo, was the specialist who joined in this class...some really compelling information
2 - Genesis 1.1
3 - Genesis 1.27
4 - Ecclesiastes 3.11
5 - Matthew 6.33