Happiness is a verb

Earlier today, I ended my post with an acknowledgement that my writing’s been a bit gloomy lately. And so, I set off in search of more positive inspiration, visiting an old reliable source of good news: Yes! Magazine.

As it turns out, I found an article at Yes! that suggests that that very act — deciding to turn my attention away from despair, toward optimism, that I might share what I find with others who may occasionally despair, that they might find some solace and hope — is the very recipe for happiness!

Truth be told, I didn’t really just learn this idea from the Yes! article. It’s a concept that I’ve been familiar with for many years, actually. But I liked how the article traced the history of happiness, noting its roots as a state one is either lucky or fated to experience, until Greek and Roman Classical philosophers reframed it as the product of living a good life.

Taking it further, to define happiness as a verb, meaning all the things we do in the process of leading those good lives ARE happiness, certainly resonates for me. I know I always feel happy when I am doing something good, something positive, almost any kind of helpful contribution to others, my family and friends, my community, the world in general.

Thinking of happiness as a verb accomplishes something else. It allows, I think, for suffering to co-exist with happiness in a way that doesn’t abandon us to suffering. We might suffer while we are taking our happiness actions, yet our suffering can alleviate the suffering of others, and we can notice that our suffering is transient, and that suffering in the name of alleviating the suffering of others doesn’t hurt quite as much.


As I write this, there’s breaking news that the body of Dwight Clark, the Western Washington University student who has been missing since September 26th, has been found in Bellingham Bay near the old Georgia-Pacific plant.

Profoundly sad.

So, what about my attempt to lighten things up here at Fish & Bicycles? I admit that it could seem trite now.

And yet, in about 45 minutes the WWU community will be gathering on campus in Red Square to share in the pain of this senseless loss. The administration assumed that people would want to join together, and so they suggested the vigil in their formal announcement. And, I’ve just heard that there are already many people gathering in Red Square already.

While this gathering won’t bring Dwight Clark back, there is something undeniably positive about the widespread outpouring of caring that has come from the WWU and Bellingham communities since Dwight disappeared.

I really don’t think this changes the happiness is a verb conclusion in any way. Sad, tragic things happen and will continue to happen. All the more reason to act out as many happinesses as possible as often as possible.

I’ll start by attending the vigil for Dwight Clark.

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