Happiness is perfected when shared

Published 1:12 am Saturday, September 17, 2016

I flipped on the light switch by my back door one day to let my dog out and discovered a large spider web dangling from the roof. It was a delicate work of art crafted by a garden spider clinging to its center and illuminated by my porch light. I realized it was a strategic spot for the spider to snag insects attracted by the light. Fascinated by the beauty and size of the web, I left it alone and used caution when I let the dog in.

Spider webs are both fragile and strong. I have seen them hold fast in a strong wind, yet break at the slightest touch of a fingertip. While admiring its beauty, I thought of a phrase I ran across about a spider web relating to happiness. On those same pages were others’ views of happiness. Identified as only a thought by someone named Young, the phrase was, “The spider’s most attenuated thread is cord and is cable to man’s tender tie on earthly bliss—it breaks at every breeze.”

I found that phrase unusual, relating spider web threads to happiness, so I searched for others’ views on happiness. Poet James Oppenheim’s comment was “The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.”

William Lyons Phelps, English literature professor at Yale University and a literary critic, wrote, “The belief that youth is the happiest time of life is founded on a fallacy. The happiest person is the person who thinks the most interesting thoughts and we grow happier as we grow older.”

George Bernard Shaw, English playwright believed “We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.”

An old Chinese proverb relates, “Happiness is like a sunbeam, which the least shadow intercepts, while adversity is often as the rain of spring.”

Nineteenth Century Scottish writer and poet Robert Louis Stevenson said the habit of being happy enables one to be freed or largely freed, from the domination of outward conditions.

Happiness is the supreme object of existence, according to American author J. Gilchrist Lawson, while Austin O’Malley, an ophthalmologist and a professor of English literature at University of Notre Dame, wrote that happiness is the harvest of a quiet eye.

American women’s suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt believed that service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life.

The words, “The most happy man is he who knows how to bring into relation the end and the beginning of life,” are attributed to Johann W. von Goethe, a German poet.

English novelist Jane Porter described happiness “as a sunbeam which may pass through a thousand bosoms without losing a particle of its original ray; nay when it strikes on a kindred heart, like the converged light on a mirror, it reflects itself with redoubled brightness. It is not perfected until it is shared.”


Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper industry.