THERE is a song by a band that most of you will never have heard of that I will want to have on my Desert Island Discs, and possibly at my funeral. The band is called The Blue Nile. They hail from Glasgow. They are remarkable for their minimal output -- four albums, but four classics -- in nearly as many decades.
They are also remarkable for the devotion in which their fans hold them. They seem a fairly angst-ridden lot but, as I write this, I am listening to one of their most loved tracks, Happiness, which is from their Peace at Last album. The album title comes from the song which begins:
"Now that I found peace at last,
Tell me, Jesus, will it last?"
The images in the song are all those that are in my mind lazing in the garden on a summer day with a gentle breeze, conscious of the birds in the background. Not surprisingly the song is also about a man who has fallen in love and is enjoying basking in it. But he has enough miles on the clock for caution. It seems that the love has not lasted in the past.
Which always leads me to wonder: if you want to feel happy, what does last?
Incidentally, not everyone seems to want to be happy.
There are people I have come across who I am convinced are only happy when they have something to worry about, and are only truly happy when they have something to be miserable about. I give them a wide berth.
Abraham Lincoln said most people are about as happy as they decide to be. I have decided to be well on the plus side of happy, and when I wonder how to achieve that state of affairs, I always come back to the same answer. It is not due to love, pleasant and all as that is. It is work, or, more precisely, doing things -- most of which have no need to take the form of paid employment --that keep us upbeat.
The sunny moments of sitting back and contemplating happiness are better not indulged for too long. Not that the Irish weather would allow for that. The truly happy people I know are usually doing things. They may be training for a fun run. Or a marathon. They may be taking the dog for a walk. Or getting their garden in shape.
They may be involved in an absorbing project at work. They may be writing a song, hitting a golf ball, reading a book, planning a fundraiser. The point is that they are rarely idle. These things involve being with other people. So they are having plenty of chats and arguments, laughs and sorrows to share.
There are few times I find myself more down than on one of those nights when I go to bed at midnight and have done nothing since arriving home except veg out in front of the television. On a night like this, you probably watch one very good programme, catch up on a good DVD, and tolerate several hours of absolute rubbish. You would feel better if you went for a walk, put up a shelf, even did the ironing.
I have never ever watched an episode of Fair City, East-Enders or any of the soaps. This is not because I am an elitist snob. It is because they are designed to addict the viewer and ever since I got hooked on Neighbours years ago, I have sworn off them all. So far as I can see, they have no function except to fill time between the ads. Happiness and too much television are incompatible.
Doing things is a good start to feeling happy. Loving, and being loved, is a nice addition. And having something to hope for and strive towards is the icing on the cake.