Tuesday, October 28, 2014


What is happiness?

Is happiness the joy that the weekend is near or the prospect of dining out? Or is it the purchase of a new laptop or a great new car? They certainly can make us feel good, but sadly, that feeling may last only a few hours or a few days and then it will fade away.

What then is enduring happiness?

Long-lasting happiness is a feeling of contentment that is not dependent on external events, but something that springs from within us. It’s caused by our attitude, that is by the way we view the world. Is our glass half empty, or is it half full?

Long-lasting happiness is within reach for all of us. The primary step is to accept life and whatever it may bring. This includes life’s many hardships.

Once we whole-heartedly embrace life in all its diversity, our negative emotions, such as hate, anger, jealousy, desire, and thirst for revenge, will diminish — a good thing since they are the cause of much agony and pain. In effect, we are much better off when we focus on counting our blessings.

 In addition to accepting life’s complexity of events, it is important to find meaning that reaches beyond the satisfaction of our personal desires. The discovery of a purpose in life is often the cause of deep happiness.

Albert Schweitzer, the great physician, philosopher, musician and medical missionary in Africa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his book, “Reverence for Life,” put it this way: “Those among you, who have sought and found how to serve others, will truly be happy.”

Around two thousand years ago, a Greek slave called Epictetus heard two adults discuss philosophy. He was still a child, severely crippled, but the topic so enthralled him that he asked his master’s permission to study it.

The young slave learned eagerly, and gained wisdom and respect. He was eventually freed from his bonds and spent the rest of his life sharing the wisdom of his beloved philosophy with humanity.

One of Epictetus’ maxims for achieving happiness advocates accepting events that we cannot change:

Conduct me, Zeus, and thou, O Destiny,
Wherever thy decree has fixed my lot.
I follow willingly; and, did I not,
Wicked and wretched would I follow still.

Not many mortals will reach a perfect state of inner contentment, such as the Dalai Lama or Epictetus found. But we can get better at warding off unwarranted discontent, and get closer to finding happiness.

Until next time,


Saturday, October 4, 2014

25th Anniversary of East Germany's Collapse

On October 4th, 1989 a tumultuous uprising agitated the East German city of Dresden. After 44 years of Communist rule they had enough.  Thanks to humane-minded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Hungary had eased its border control to the West, but East Germany’s Honecker wanted no part of it—the iron curtain was to stay closed.

During that summer some 200,000 East Germans tried to make their way to Hungary and escape across that border to the West. Honecker panicked. He forbade all travel to Hungary and reinforced border control. Agitated would-be refugees flooded the embassies, they were determined to leave.

The situation became desperate and Honecker agreed to allow 5,000 refugees to leave, but not for Hungary. He “expelled” them to West Germany in “sealed” trains.

Thousand of refugees started protesting, cowing the state’s police. So a second set of trains—tightly sealed—was allowed. It became known as “the last train to freedom.” Yet thousands of restless and desperate refugees were left behind and refused to go home.

Secret Police and Stasi troops decided to fight these people and clear the station. Terrible scenes of violence and brutality unfolded. Extraordinary efforts of opposition leaders were able to bring about peaceful demonstrations, and they succeeded.

The movement could not be halted. It spread throughout East Germany, culminating in the peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall. Putin was a KGB officer then and most likely saw it first hand, though all records of his where-abouts in 1989 have been carefully destroyed. He refers to the collapse of the authority of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe as the greatest tragedy of the 20th century.

Yet it brought peace and freedom to many.

Until next time,