Beginning with Sufi master Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, who writes about the beneficence of cleaning, and ending with Helen Keller, who attained happiness in the midst of great affliction, this issue explores the nature of happiness and the ways men and women have shared in it, or not. We learn how Henry David Thoreau, who famously wrote that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” discovered bliss in nature; how pilgrim Ann Sieben finds purpose and delight in walking from sacred site to site; how a prisoner has achieved a certain peace of mind, even on Death Row.
Happiness, we see, does not mean the absence of suffering. As G.I. Gurdjieff wrote, “Every real happiness for man can arise exclusively only from some unhappiness, also real, which he has already experienced.” The “pursuit of happiness,” enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence, is a worthwhile endeavor only when considered within the context of other pursuits—the search for meaning; acts of service; the following of conscience—that necessarily involve suffering, including of the ego. We can’t corral happiness directly any more than we can catch our own shadows.
And yet we see that happiness is attainable, because it always depends upon one universal aspect that we all share: that of relationship. We all exist within the world and its intricate web of energies and influences, both human and divine. As Tracy Cochran illumines in an essay here, fulfullment comes only through opening to that world around us; gripped by fear, she found happiness in a yoga studio where “someone swung open a door and welcomed me in.”
The first issue of Parabola, published more than forty years ago, focused on The Hero and her or his journey. That journey remains ours, and we also realize that no Hero stands alone and that the journey can be fulfilled only through the help of others and the grace of God.
Cover Description: Photograph by Eric Santos. Photo of L’Ange au Sourire, a stone statue on the west façade of the cathedral of Reims, France, carved between 1236 and 1245Purchase the Current Issue
Table of Contents
ESSAYS AND CONVERSATIONS
Jiddu Krishnamurti, The True Meaning of Happiness: A great teacher points the way
Patty de Llosa, Finding Joy: Sound, scientific guidance on attaining happiness
Kevin Dann, Spring Burst Upon Thoreau: The sage of Walden finds bliss
Guri Mehta, The Winter Pilgrim: A conversation with Ann Sieben, who walks the Way
Frédéric Lenoir, “Remember to Look Inside Yourself”: Bracing advice from the Stoic philosophers
Adam Brock, The Gift: A celebration of the “currency of love”
Tami Simon, The Dharma of Dogs: A dog with a heart as wide as the world
Paramahansa Yogananda, Saint to Saint: The yoga master visits a Catholic mystic and stigmatic
Pavithra Mehta, Poetry as a Form of Love: A conversation with poet Barbara Crooker
Christina Feldman, Joy: Buddhist direction on cultivating the fields of joy
Daniel Pinchbeck , The Choice: Planet Earth is in crisis; which way lies happiness?
Helen Keller, Something Unusual and Wonderful: The blind-deaf author discovers the world
Naomi Shihab Nye So Much Happiness
Barbara Crooker The Stone
Barbara Crooker Yes
Barbara Crooker Sanctus
Barbara Crooker Lemon
Tsunemasa Attributed to Zeami Motokiyo / Japanese Noh
Retold by Kenneth E. Lawrence, translated by Edward Kai Lawrence. Art by Kumiko Lawrence
Indra and the Parade of Ants Anonymous / Hindu
Retold by Liz Greene & Juliet Sharman-Burke
We Hold These Truths
In Memoriam: Huston Smith
Parabola remembers a great scholar and friend