Posts tagged ‘Happiness’

Youssu N’Dour Never Grows Up – Good Idea!

I watched Jeremy Marre’s excellent film on Youssu N’Dour on BBC 4. Early in the film they played one of his songs with the lyrics “When the children play I shall lead them, and be truly happy.”. He then talked about his lack of a childhood, due to becoming a singer at 13. The lyrics continue, ” I’m going back to my childhood and I never want to grow up.” In an interview he said that watching his children grow up showed him how much he had missed. He saw how his children always had questions to ask and how they profit from life.

I also never want to grow up, but I don’t think I live out my days in a playful childlike way. This would be the best way to live if I could do it. Of course as an adult you have many more responsibilities than when you were a child, and these responsibilities have to be dealt with. Some people ignore them and cause chaos, some deal with them in a slapdash way and cope, and others treat them seriously. I’m somewhere between slapdash and serious. But is it possible to take care of your responsibilities well but in a playful way, so that you don’t have to be ‘serious’ about serious things, but deal with them with flair, joy, and spontaneity. Life would be so much easier and happier if you could.

We have less of a problem treating pleasure and leisure times in a playful way, but all the other activities, which we probably see as chores, we don’t undertake in a light fashion. This is what I would like to do, in future. I think of Yeats’ poem, Lapis Lazuli,

Two Chinamen, behind them a third,
Are carved in lapis lazuli,
Over them flies a long-legged bird,
A symbol of longevity;
The third, doubtless a serving-man,
Carries a musical instrument.

Every discoloration of the stone,
Every accidental crack or dent,
Seems a water-course or an avalanche,
Or lofty slope where it still snows
Though doubtless plum or cherry-branch
Sweetens the little half-way house
Those Chinamen climb towards, and I
Delight to imagine them seated there;
There, on the mountain and the sky,
On all the tragic scene they stare.
One asks for mournful melodies;
Accomplished fingers begin to play.
Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,
Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay

I have always wanted to look at life like this, but have never managed it. Why do I walk down the street with more of a scowl than a smile? Can’t I overlook the seriousness of life and instead see the humour and silliness of it? I know if I did that I would be healthier and happier.

Can I do it?

September 3, 2013 at 11:04 am Leave a comment

The Lagging Sheep

I recently did the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. This is a detailed questionnaire that reveals 24 different strengths rated from your strongest down to your weakest. Martin Seligman, who helped devise the survey, says that if you lived your life according to your top strengths that everything you did would be accomplished with ease and pleasure. One  example he gives is of one of his students who worked (unhappily) as a bagger in a supermarket. However, once she used her prime strength – Social Intelligence – in her work, she had a much better time of it. She turned the bagging of groceries into the high point of many a shopper’s day.  You can take the test at

There’s a story of Chuang Tsu’s which also looks at strengths and weaknesses, but unlike Martin Seligman’s point of using your strengths, Chuang Tsu recommends working on your weaknesses. Here is the story which I called The Lagging Sheep in my book, The Spiritual Teachings of The Tao:

Tien Kai Chih was talking with Duke Wei of Chou, who asked him, “I understand your Master Chu Hsien has studied life. What has he taught you about it?”

Tien Kai Chih replied, “While I am busy sweeping his courtyard, how can I hear my master’s teaching?”

Duke Wei said, ”Don’t evade the question, Mr. Tien. I’m very interested in what you’ve learned.”

Kai Chih said, ”I’ve heard my master say ‘One who skilfully nourishes life is like a shepherd, who rounds up the sheep that lag behind.’”

“What did he mean?”, asked the Duke.

Kai Chih replied, “In Lu there was a man named Shan Pao, who lived in the wilderness, and drank only water. He didn’t share anyone’s work or the benefits from it. Though he was seventy years old, he still had the complexion of a child. Unfortunately he encountered a fierce tiger, who killed him.

There was another man called Chang Yi, who spent all his time consorting with the wealthy and powerful, paying his respects. When he was only forty, he came down with a fever and died.

Of these two men, Shan Pao nourished his inner self, and a tiger attacked his outer, while Chang Yi nourished his outer self, and disease attacked his inner. According to my master both of them neglected to round up their lagging sheep.”

Maybe Chuang Tsu would say that your strengths will look after themselves, whereas your weaknesses need some attention. Keeping them in balance may be the way to have a centred approach to life.

December 8, 2011 at 12:44 am Leave a comment

The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.