Recently I rec'd the following e-mail:
I have read and admired your writing for some time.
You have quite a following here in Kent, UK.
I share some of your past habits, and now mostly know some serenity through my association with fellow addicts.
Simple question. - are you happy?
I thought,Happy? Happy! ...
I thought of a letter I'd just read in Frederick Buechner's (excellent) Speak What We Feel (Not What We Think We Ought to Say) by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
What is my wretched life? Five wasted years almost have passed in
Ireland. I am ashamed of the little I have done, of my waste of time, although my helplessness and weakness is such that I could scarcely do otherwise….All my undertaking miscarry. I am like a straining eunuch. I wish then for death; yet if I died now I should die imperfect, no master of myself, and that is the worst failure of all. O my God, look down on me.
Then I had breakfast, a friend called, and I realized all over again that in another way I am happy, at the deepest part of my being... Participating in something that is greater than myself, actually several things, makes me happy. My fellow alkies/addicts make me happy. My readers make me happy. Following Christ makes me "happy," if that's the word. Those things are all very mixed bags and maybe that's WHY they make me happy. They're not without challenges. They require all of myself. They reveal my ever-mixed motives, my ongoing weaknesses and character defects and, as well, my strengths.
I've set myself an impossible task and therein lies my happiness, such as it is. I don't much think about whether I'm happy and maybe that's the best sign that I am. Because for a long time I was very very UNhappy--and I never thought about anything else.
Love is indeed ecstasy, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self toward its liberation...and the discovery of God.
--His Holiness Benedict XVI