Happiness in the Age of Victoria

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Happiness

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”

 Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Charles Dickens was a fierce critic of poverty and the social stratification endemic within Victorian society.  Even today, we still encounter the idea of keeping up with a wealthy lifestyle.  There is a subtle promise that happiness comes from buying the “niceties” of life.

John Stuart Mill, a philosopher, advocate for human rights and a contemporary of Charles Dickens once said, “I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.”  Perhaps frugality is the mechanism that helps us to live within our means and gently reminds us that happiness cannot be purchased.  Happiness is already free.

Peace in Action

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GivernyBusiness!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” 
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Virginia Woolf once said:  “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”  Peace is found in action!

The indomitable Eleanor Roosevelt declared: “It isn’t enough to talk about peace.  One must believe in it.  And it isn’t enough to believe in it.  One must work at it.”  Even so, it is difficult at times to know how to participate. How do we “work at it?”

Perhaps the “work” is sharing kindness and love.  A gentle word said in passing, a smile exchanged with a co-worker, a hug given when sorrow has visited a friend.  St. Francis of Assisi prayed:  “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

Peace comes with Understanding

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Peace

“They are Man’s and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” 
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Peace thrives on understanding and dies on ignorance.  The Dalai Lama is quite clear on this point:  “Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.”  Helen Keller declared: “I do not want the peace which passeth understanding; I want the understanding which bringeth peace.”    Ralph Waldo Emerson penned: “Peace cannot be achieved through violence; it can only be attained through understanding.”

Understanding is not as easy as it seems especially when we live in a complex, diverse and fast paced world where value systems are being continually challenged.  But “lasting peace” is worth the effort.

 

Butterflies Are Free

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This year marks the 200th anniversary of our beloved Charles Dickens.  His work serves as a reminder for those who came after him to stand firm against exploitation and oppression.  Freedom is priceless.

“I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free.”
Charles Dickens