By Simon Lawrence
It was late, gone one in the morning and I’d not eaten since lunchtime, I had been driving non-stop for the past nine hours and I was still several more from my destination.
‘Coffee please,’ I said to the girl behind the counter of the twenty-four hour diner… ‘Oh! And one of those too.’ I pointed to a yellowing photo of a burger with some salad and crisps scattered alongside it… hoping for a little more colour when it appeared on my plate.
She took my $10.00 and disappeared, so I found a seat and watched my weary reflection in the window.
I hadn’t noticed him when I arrived, but a loud clatter made me turn to see what had made me jump… it was an old chap with a long wispy beard and a clean-shaven scalp. He was slumped in his wheelchair muttering obscenities, and as I watched he slowly ran his long figures down each of the condiment bottles to figure out which he needed. At this late hour it seemed it was just the two of us still awake and hungry.
My coffee appeared without an acknowledgement, so I spooned in some sugar and gave it a long stir. As the froth curled over the chocolate topping I was reminded of a phrase my interviewee had said earlier in the day... ‘The days that make us happy make us wise’… The Poet Laureate John Mansfield wrote that and hearing it again made me realise I had always thought it the other way around; and now sitting here sipping my coffee I finally grasped the true meaning of Mansfield’s philosophical observation.
The wisdom that happiness makes possible lies in plain and unambiguous perception, not one fogged by anxiety or fear or stressed emotions. Real happiness, not just a satisfied grin or a contented feeling often comes to us suddenly, like an unexpected and brief sun shower on a hot summers day.
You realise what kind of wisdom has accompanied it. Like the summer cascade, it makes the grass greener and brings out the songbirds. It helps lessen any problems we may have. Happiness is like putting our sunglasses on; everything seems more colourful and easier on the eyes.
Unhappiness or strained happiness, perhaps like we sometimes feel in a relationship can cut our vision short, stunt our dreams and unbalance our clear perceptions… it's more like standing in front of a brick wall and failing to turn around and see the wonderful view behind us.
The sweeping panorama is always there if only we look for it, the world at our feet, the people we love, our thoughts and emotions, everything becomes so much better proportioned when true joy and happiness comes, and that is the beginning of wisdom.