Happiness Quote Week One

Each Monday I’m going to post a quote relating to happiness (partly because it’s such an elusive idea, there seems to be a billion of them) and then place my comments below.  I was an English major- explication is what I do.  Feel free to share your opinions below. 

I have now reigned about 50 years in victory or peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot. They amount to fourteen.

Abd Er-Rahman III of Spain(960 C.E.)

According to a quick Google search, the fellow named above was the son of a harem slave.  At the age of 21, he defeated all of the enemies in Al-Andalus (a Spanish city) and was declared the Emir.  He ruled for over thirty years and created a dynasty that would last over three centuries.

Here’s the thing.  This guy, I imagine, lived as much like a god as a man can on earth.  Money was no object, and his power outstripped any modern example.  Bill Gates might have been wealthier, but even Mr. Gates can not follow his will with impugnity.  This man knew no such limits.  What he wanted, for good or evil, was undoubtedly his.  Dwell on that for a moment, and imagine the ramifications.  Want someone dead?  Done.  Want someone to live? Done.  Want a harem with 99 women?  Done.  Want a harem with 99 men?  Done.  You get the picture.

And yet even with all this, he could only find 14 days of happiness as he looked back on his life.  He was obviously a highly intelligent man, because he was able to cobble together a kingdom in such a highly warlike environment.  This quote also shows us that he was deeply introspective- he realized, at least at the end, that most of the time he had been unhappy.  My guess is he wishes he would have figured this out sooner.

The core lesson is this, of course- money and power don’t necessarily correlate into true happiness.  I think most people get this one.  However, a corollary to this lesson is more implicit: make sure that when you’re doing something you don’t like just so you can do something you like, that you know when to quit.  It does no good to spend 50 years working on a ship that will never sail.  It is far better to wade in a muddy ditch than plan to sail the world, never once leaving the beach. 

I feel that Er-Rahman III thought to himself, “Just one more battle, and I will let my son take over.”  Or, he would say, “If I can just quell this insurrection, then I’ll be done.”  Perhaps he said, “Once my son is older, then I will let him take over.”  The hard and bitter truth that he realized is that his life was over before he could enjoy it- the inevitable stresses and hardships that come from running a dynasty robbed him of that choice.

There are always more pennies to save and millions to earn.  At some point, however, the reality of the situation forces you to reassess- it makes no sense to work to better your life, when your life is what’s slipping away.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: