Many people have a wrong idea about what constitutes happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
I have never given very deep thought to a philosophy of life, though I have a few ideas that I think are useful to me. One is that you do whatever comes your way to do as well as you can, and another is that you think as little as possible about yourself and as much as possible about other people and about things that are interesting. The third is that you get more joy out of giving joy to others and should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.
Happiness is not an endowment and not an acquisition. It depends more upon temperament and disposition than environment. It is a state or condition of mind, and not a commodity to be bought or sold in the market. A beggar may be happier in his rags than a king in purple.
Poverty is no more incompatible with happiness than wealth, and the inquiry ‘How to be happy though poor?’ implies a want of understanding of the conditions upon which happiness depends.
Dives was not happy because he was a millionaire, nor Lazarus wretched because he was a pauper. There is a quality in the soul of man that is superior to his circumstances and that defies calamity and misfortune. The man who is unhappy when he is poor would be unhappy if he were rich, and he who is happy in a palace in Paris would be happy in a dug-out on the frontier of Dakota.
There are as many unhappy rich men as there are unhappy poor men. Every heart knows its own bitterness and its own joy. Not that wealth and what it brings is not desirable – books, travel, leisure, comfort, the best food and raiment, agreeable companionship – but all these do not necessarily bring happiness and may coexist with the deepest wretchedness, while adversity and penury, exile and privation are not incompatible with the loftiest exaltation of the soul.
John J Ingalls