Friends think about, talk about, and enjoy happiness with one another. David Naugle’s new book, Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness, is a good book to read and a good book to discuss — and I hope you find a way to read it in a group or at least with a friend. You may have heard this, but there are lots of studies today that measure the happiest places on earth (Denmark is #1) and that the correlation of wealth and happiness is not what many think it might be. And there is a correlation of happiness and one’s political/religious views. Having said that, let’s dip into Naugle’s 1st chp — which has so many ideas on happiness it is hard to contain.
Question: If you had to pick the top three things required in order to be happy, what would they be?
It is true that happiness is a “yuppie word” (Bob Dylan, who prefers “blessed”) far too often connected to doing what one wants — to a personal, subjective state. It is also true that the church has had its share of struggles affirming the value of happiness as a universal human trait. “Believers,” the church tends to say, “are straight-laced, sober, and sad. Some are cold; a few are frozen.” So Naugle argues in this book for a Christian definition and a Christian appropriation of the universal longing what is best called “happiness.”
Naugle’s claim is that Christian happiness is “Edenistic” and not “hedonistic.” (Clever.) He finds six features:
1. Spiritually: we are made for union with God as Eikons.
2. Vocationally: we are made to undertake fulfilling work as stewards of God’s creation.
3. Socially: we are made for human companionship “especially as man and woman in the context of marriage and family life” (though he is not here addressing the single life or denying it or judging it).
4. Nutritionally: we are made to partake of food and drink.
5. Sabbatically: we are made to rest and play in the blessing of the 7th day.
6. Habitationally: we are made to take pleasure in our surroundings — an Edenic vision.