If there is a state where the soul can find a resting-place secure enough to establish itself and concentrate its entire being there, with no need to remember the past or reach into the future, where time is nothing to it, where the present runs on indefinitely but this duration goes unnoticed, with no sign of the passing of time, and no other feeling of deprivation or enjoyment, pleasure or pain, desire or fear than the simple feeling of existence, a feeling that fills our soul entirely, as long as this state lasts, we can call ourselves happy, not with a poor, incomplete and relative happiness such as we find in the pleasures of life, but with a sufficient, complete and perfect happiness which leaves no emptiness to be filled in the soul.
Lone Ranch Beach near Brookings, OR
Several months ago I read this quote of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in an online article titled “Happy like God,” and was struck by how much like heaven it sounded. That didn’t seem to be Rousseau’s intent. The person who wrote the article was using the quote as an example of how happiness could be described philosophically. Rousseau apparently liked to float in a small row boat near where he lived in Switzerland, and would sometimes pull in the oars, stretch out and fall into a reverie. The happiness he found on the lake was not quantitative nor could it be measured by science. It is, in the charmed language an 18th century romantic, a feeling of existence. What a winsome way to think of something that most people treat like a commodity.
It’s interesting how often happiness seems to be bound up with the presence or movement of water. What Rousseau found in his row boat I have often felt when I’m at the ocean’s edge almost anywhere. In fair weather or foul, I am calmed by the sound and scent of the surf, and especially when I’m running, I feel in sync with its rhythms. There is in the vastness of the ocean a sense of the eternal. Time slows down, and the world thins out. I don’t know if this soulfulness makes God happy, but it does me.