Musings on Mormonism

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Happiness category.

On conquering depression, or any other flaw which troubles the soul

My sister at Mishtown has been expanding into my philosophical turf for some time now, and with this quote by Andrew Solomon (whoever that is) has truly upstaged me:

“People around depressives expect them to get themselves together: our society has little room in it for moping. Spouses, parents, children, and friends are all subject to being brought down themselves, and they do not want to be close to measureless pain. No one can do anything but beg for help (if he can do even that) at the lowest depths of a major depression, but once the help is provided, it must also be accepted. We would all like Prozac to do it for us, but in my experience, Prozac doesn’t do it unless we help it along. Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don’t believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it’s good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason. These fortune-cookie admonitions sound pat, but the surest way out of depression is to dislike it and not to let yourself grow accustomed to it. Block out the terrible thoughts that invade your mind.”

As one who has trodden through the bleak, black wasteland of depression, so much of this quote rings true for me! Conquering depression is an act of faith like no other. It requires one to assess their current state and ability to feel and think, which are most likely horrifically impaired, and then, in courageous defiance to say “I don’t care. I am going to choose to believe otherwise, and I am going to move forward, and in the end, I am going to win.” Is such courage easy or inexpensive? No, it requires one to step into the dark of uncertainty and away from what is already known and which may even be comfortable, in spite of the unhappiness it brings. Yes, I am suggesting that things which make us unhappy may, paradoxically, also be or become more familiar and comfortable to us than the prospect of fighting against them. Solomon seems to imply this when he says “the surest way out of depression is to dislike it and not let yourself grow accustomed to it.” Although mental illness is just one of a host of conditions which may ail the human soul, I do not think it is too much of a stretch to say that this principle can be applied to most if not all other things about our characters or circumstances about which we feel inadequacy, dissatisfaction, or unhappiness.

Life is about faith, and faith, I think, is about having the courage to believe on the words of others who have gone before and had authentic experiences with the divine or the formerly unknown, and then individually having the courage and resolve to do likewise, even when a thousand voices cry out that doubt is so much more reliable and safe. In time, we will find that the effort, quite possibly even herculean, to believe, to do, and to persevere pays off in ways which previously were unimaginable.

Mercifully, there is never a point at which it is too late to choose this path!


Thoughts on love, family, and North Carolina

For a while now, I have had long-term plans of checking out and quite possibly settling in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. That area, between Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill, is known for its high-tech industries and highly educated populace. As I see it, living there would be like living in DC, except that people would be friendly and not as absorbed in work, politics, and other things with which elites occupy their time. My hope is that it would also provide social opportunities with people more like myself (i.e. those who are intellectually curious and ambitious, but laid-back and easygoing). Yes, I am talking about dating as much as I am talking about making new friends. More, really 😉

Anyway, I haven’t actually been there yet, so this is all speculation based on a number of positive reports of the area. I have a roadtrip planned for next weekend, however, which will allow me to scope things out. Specifically, I will be trying to figure out if it is possible to transfer to one of the grad schools down there, and/or find a good job. As I like to put it, I’m not married to anyone, nor to DC, nor to George Washington University, so if I find a sufficiently appealing option elsewhere, I’ll take it!

I just finished talking to Tiff on the phone, and catching up on her blog. I learn good things from the examples of each of my family members, and one thing I always take from Tiff is the happiness that comes from parenthood (although she may be tempted to question such a perception). Single life is much easier than married/family life, I’m sure, but I know it is not as fulfilling, and far from the end-all of existence. Whenever I visit with family – especially when there are nieces and nephews involved – I feel like a dormant part of me comes alive again. Much of it has to do with love, I think. A life focused on meeting one’s own selfish needs is hardly a life at all, it seems.  Real joy comes through putting others first, from living for others. My guess is that this kind of love comes about only in the most sacred of human relationships, those between husband and wife, and between parents and children.

During the Christmas holiday, Dad shared a quote by Dag Hammarskjöld (not a household name, but a wise man, nonetheless). He said:

It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.

I have thought much about this quote since Dad shared it with me. It is the kind of notion which flies in the face of conventional wisdom of single people like me (and yet, so unlike me!). If I ever brought it up in class, my peers would scratch their heads in bewilderment, and not just because I’m talking about Dag Hammarskjöld in an economics class 🙂 To clarify, I am not against laboring “diligently for the salvation of the masses”, and I certainly do not think it ignoble. However, I am completely convinced that family life is more important than any other aspect of life, and I strongly suspect that to ignore and replace the impulse for family with other things, even very good things which help other people, is to miss the mark. Such a realignment may even be motivated by selfish reasons (fear is another plausible motivation). After all, a happy family comes about from hard work, self-sacrifice, humility, discipline – in other words, a happy family is costly, and not everyone is willing to pay such prices. I’m reminded of Leo Tolstoy’s keen observation in the beginning of Anna Karenina that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Admittedly, I didn’t get very far into the book, but I interpret this to mean that the happiness of a family depends on the application of certain principles, and that the failure to discover, commit to, and apply such principles may very likely lead to the discovery of a unique brand of unhappiness! Some innovations should never be made, I say 🙂

So, to sum up, families and love are good, and North Carolina might be good too!

“Full Conversion Brings Happiness”

I’ve been studying and thinking about conversion lately, and I found this talk by Elder Richard G. Scott to be quite elucidating. Below is an excerpt:

“With characteristic doctrinal clarity and precision, President Marion G. Romney explained conversion:

“Converted means to turn from one belief or course of action to another. Conversion is a spiritual and moral change. Converted implies not merely mental acceptance of Jesus and his teachings but also a motivating faith in him and his gospel. A faith which works a transformation, an actual change in one’s understanding of life’s meaning and in his allegiance to God in interest, in thought, and in conduct. In one who is really wholly converted, desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died. And substituted therefore is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments.”

To be converted, you must remember to apply diligently in your life the key words “a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments.” Your happiness now and forever is conditioned on your degree of conversion and the transformation that it brings to your life. How then can you become truly converted? President Romney describes the steps you must follow:

“Membership in the Church and conversion are not necessarily synonymous. Being converted and having a testimony are not necessarily the same thing either. A testimony comes when the Holy Ghost gives the earnest seeker a witness of the truth. A moving testimony vitalizes faith. That is, it induces repentance and obedience to the commandments. Conversion is the fruit or the reward for repentance and obedience.”

For more great insights and explanation, check out the entry in the Church’s gospel topics section.

Things on my mind: December 13, 2009 edition

I want to jot a few things down before I go to bed at a decent hour for church in the morning. This will more of a journal-ish post, but I hope that doesn’t bother anyone. I’ve never been able to figure out the appropriate balance between sharing things about yourself and keeping personal things personal, and digital media certainly haven’t resolved that issue.

First, I helped a cute girl friend (note it’s not hyphenated, so don’t get any ideas) get a free bed this morning. It was good to see her, and help her get an upgrade in her sleeping arrangements. Acquiring a bed is actually a big step forward in getting settled in a new place. I didn’t get mine until I had been here for several months. In fact, for one uncomfy month, I slept on a leaky air mattress on a cold basement floor. Anyway, she made us yummy pancakes afterwards, and then we went looking for an ugly sweater for me at Goodwill (for an ugly sweater party later on). Surprisingly, Goodwill was short on marginally-Christmas-looking, flagrantly ugly sweaters. No, biggie though.

Anyway, it was good to spend time with her. Afterwards, I took a nap for a few hours, then decided my Econ final on Monday wasn’t studying for itself and got down to brass tacks. It takes so much more will power to sit down and study than it used to, and it’s something I admit I need to get better about, what with being in grad school and all 🙂 Later tonight, I went to the aforementioned ugly sweater party, and it was both really great and really short on hideous sweaters. The novelty of deliberately dressing poorly apparently doesn’t appeal to a lot of people, but also no biggie.

I just finished studying for the night, and had a few additional specific ideas I wanted to jot down. They are:

1) My social life is really quite good these days. For some reason, this occurred to me as I was studying econ. I think I am probably much more satisfied with my social life now than I ever was as a student at BYU. I count myself very fortunate to know so many great people here – not just smart people, not just successful people, but genuinely good, happy people. Life is far from complete for me, and the same holds true for my peers, but I’m grateful for I what I have, and what I have is quite a lot, really. I think Michael Scott from The Office sums it up well:

“As I watched Pam’s big, strong hand coming towards my face, I saw my entire life flash before my eyes. And guess what? I have four kids, and I have a hover car and a hover house. And my wife is a runner, and it shows. And Pam and Jim are our best friends, and our kids play together. And I’m happy, I’m rich, and I never die. And it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough for me.”

2) Happiness. This one has been on my mind a lot lately. In part, this is because of my concern for certain people who are close to me, and in part it’s because of my concern for myself 😉 Interestingly, we don’t talk much about happiness in our daily conversations, and yet I think most people, on a subconscious level at the very least, operate with it as their overall goal. But what is happiness exactly? And how do we obtain it? I’ll share my thoughts on those questions another time. For now, here’s what Joseph Smith said:

“Happiness is the object and design of our existence and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”

Some might find this controversial; I just find it to make a whole lot of intuitive sense.

3) Discipline. This is closely related to #2. I had a thought today, which seemed sufficiently profound to justify being broadcast to the world via Facebook: discipline is necessary for happiness. I’ve had far too much experience with undiscipline and unhappiness which supports this, as well as a fair amount of happiness and discipline which support it. This is also something I intend to write more about some time.

Well, that’s all I wanted to write for now. Happy readings, everyone!

Charting a return to happiness

As suggested by the previous post and the change to a cheerier visual theme, I am attempting to shift the focus of my blog to happier things. I have recently decided that my life has more angst, indecision, and idle contemplation than is healthy or, more importantly, conducive to real happiness, the design of our existence; at any rate, such vagaries of mortality receive much more attention in my public declarations than is helpful for anyone.

…and to prove that I mean it, here’s a happy flower!


Gordon B. Hinckley, on optimism

Who could have felt gloomy or discouraged around a man such as this? No one – that’s who!  🙂

“I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we “accentuate the positive.” I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course.

What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was prone to speak critically, my father would say: “Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve (from Ensign, Apr. 1986, 2–4).

Let us go forward in this glorious work. How exciting and wonderful it is. I do not know how anybody can feel gloomy for very long who is a member of this Church. Do you feel gloomy? Lift your eyes. Stand on your feet. Say a few words of appreciation and love to the Lord. Be positive. Think of what great things are occurring as the Lord brings to pass His eternal purposes. This is a day of prophecy fulfilled, … this great day in the history of this Church. This is the day which has been spoken of by those who have gone before us. Let us live worthy of our birthright. Keep the faith. Nurture your testimonies. Walk in righteousness, and the Lord will bless you and prosper you, and you will be a happy and wonderful people (from Ensign, Aug. 1996, 61).”

Link to full article here.