I’m ‘inta’ Milan
First of all, a ‘thankyou’ and an update: the ‘Evening with Bishop Tim’ held on November 20th in St Mary le Wigford church was a great success, not least in raising in excess of £1200. This will go along way, I trust, to ensuring that some of the homeless and vulnerable people with whom we deal will get good meals throughout the winter period. Thankyou.
So David Cameron has unveiled his ‘happiness index’: using indicators such as health, educational opportunities, income and environment, the Office for National Statistics will measure the levels of well-being in our society. Aside from the bitter irony that an administration intent on so many deep cuts in the infrastructure of the country, with the consequent rise in joblessness and relative poverty, should set about measuring our happiness I do wonder what such an exercise will tell us? Statistics tell us that, despite the average person being three times more wealthy now that before the Second World War, the number of people describing themselves as ‘very happy’ has dropped from 52% in 1957 to 36% today. Happiness is a notoriously difficult thing to measure and even more difficult to define. I am, for instance, ‘very happy’ that Milan Manderic has taken over my football club Sheffield Wednesday. This will mean our debt will be erased and there is now a real chance that the club can go forward, offer some exciting football to us and generally lift the spirits of the blue and white side of the city of Sheffield. However, at the same time I am deeply unhappy about the progress of the nations in tackling global warming and I look forward pessimistically to the Cancun meeting next week. So how can you take an accurate measure of my sense of contentment because, like every other human being, I am a complex mixture of emotions: far too complex to define. Besides, I’m not sure that ‘happiness’ is the end of human life and endeavour. It’s nice to be happy, obviously, but this is not the sum total or aim of our journey through this Earth: and I am particularly suspicious-if not unhappy-when the indicators used to measure our contentment seem to be largely financial and about our economic situation: history is littered with too many suicides and emotional disasters visited on Lottery winners for us to buy that one.
Recently, I spoke to the annual gathering of those involved in palliative care in the County of Lincolnshire: people who work with those who are suffering from life-limiting conditions. The remarkable thing is that their ethos is designed to enable those,who almost by definition should be miserable and suffering, to experience a plenitude of life in their final days. I normally steer clear of quoting from the Bible at such highly secular occasions, but at this event it seemed right to remind my listeners that Jesus said that he came so that we may have life in all its abundance: and that this was an objective around which we could all agree. You’ll note that there is no mention here of happiness or contentment, more the suggestion that ‘abundant life’ means experiencing it in all its conditions and highs and lows and to pierce through the events of our lives to the deeper meaning and content that lie there: to be truly alive, and happiness is only one component in that alongside other emotions such as compassion, mindfulness, love, wholeness, hope and much more-and these things cannot be bought, they are gifts.
However, for now, Milan Manderic contributes to my sense of well-being and the meeting next week in Cancun challenges my ability to be hopeful.