I came across an intriguing way of thinking about happiness in Sharyn McCrumb’s novel, Ghost Riders. (pp. 205-206).
A character is sitting with a friend on a mountain, the air is not too hot, the sky is cloudless, and the laurel is in bloom. She says, “It’s so peaceful here. I’d put this day on my eternity list.”
What’s an eternity list? She explains it based on the theory from an [unidentified] English physicist who theorized that every moment in time lasts forever, that time may seem to flow, but it is actually separate nows, “each existing forever in its own dimension.”
So she speculates that maybe that’s what heaven is – “getting to live forever in one really wonderful moment. So the more happy moments there are in your life, the better your chances of spending eternity in a good place.”
Of course there are many unhappy moments in anyone’s life. As I wrote recently in my PPND article on resilience, adversity is part of the human condition. But at any given moment, there are a range of possible responses, some with happier consequences than others. Face the misery inherent in your life, yes, but don’t take on any more than necessary.
I shall start thinking about saving up my own eternity list — moments of communion with family and friend(s), moments of deep engagement in writing or working out details or talking about things that fascinate me, moments of physical beauty or pleasure, moments of knowing that what I am doing matters.