Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The secret of happiness

I read today that the writer Fay Weldon was asked what brought happiness and she said, “Someone to love, something to do.” I thought that this was original and pithy and just about true. Then I Googled it and found that a band called The Beautiful Few have an album called “Someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to”. (I’d never heard of them. I know very little about bands.)

On slight further investigation, I then found that this very idea is claimed to originate from “a Chinese proverb” or “a wise professor”. So maybe Fay Weldon was just quoting something that everyone (except me) has heard of before.

I still think it’s fairly accurate, though - as good as one can get in six words, or eleven if you include the looking forward (which is true too). I might extend it to fourteen: Someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to, something to sing.

And perhaps a cat. And a garden.

So that makes:

Someone to love, including a cat. Something to do, including gardening. Something to sing, but preferably not “MacArthur Park” or “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. Something to look forward to, possibly including grandchildren.

I don’t think I’m good at being succinct.

Edited to add: and of course something to read (I'm reading the letters between Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh at the moment: excellent). And blogs.

Hmm, that makes it even longer. Even without mentioning chocolate.


  1. Now you have me laughing out loud, Isabelle - if we all add our bits to it, I wonder how long it will get!
    It is a lovely sentiment - someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to... Not sure re the singing though!

  2. And isn't your younger daughter beautiful?

    I've sometimes heard "work and love" put forward as the secret of happiness, which I suppose is an even pithier way of saying the same thing (though less rhythmic).

    A book and a bath will do me.

  3. I have heard that before [and not from The Beautiful Few!"] Sounds like you've got the essentials covered in your list. As a bonus I would add "a comfy quilt to snuggle under, and plenty of books to read!"

    And what is not to like about "A Whiter Shade Of Pale?!"

  4. Why say in six words what you can spin out for at least 33?

    This thought (whoever it may be attributed to)certainly does ring true.

  5. Hey it sounded good to me, especially when the books were added ...

  6. You're so funny Isabelle! I like the addition of "something to look forward to." Years ago, I worked with a young single man and I told him the only thing that kept me going at work was looking forward to the next vacation. He looked at me like I was from Mars. Funny thing...about 10 years later (by now he was married with babies) he came back to me and said he totally understood the concept and felt the same way.

    And in case K didn't know (but I know you do), BOTH of your daughters are beautiful! ;-)

  7. I agree with all your sentiments but I do like 'a whiter shade of pale'!!!

  8. I have been thinking aout this all week.
    Someone to love, something to do, something to
    look forward to.

    quite true.

    but just today I wondered about what happens when you have too many to love, too much to do, and not much nice to look forward to??

    having one of THOSE days.

  9. But if you were too succinct, we wouldn't have much of a post to read (and giggle over) now would we? ;-)

    Yes, chocolate, pets, singing and reading definitely need a mention. Don't know about the gardening though. Maybe one day I'll be converted!

  10. LOL Well cats, books, a garden and loads of chocolate will firmly put me on the road to happiness.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. We have indeed almost the same pic as our ID. I took mine earlier this year in ..... Scotland. :-)

  11. I'm so glad that you can't sum up the secret of happiness in six words.

    Something as vital as happiness deserves more than that.

  12. Food for thought and a laugh as well, Isabelle - and I'm in agreement with all the comments here too.
    Thanks for your sympathy with our woes; everything is fine again (apart from the bank balance). Helen is coming to lunch on Tuesday so I'll be able to give her those Bloggy good wishes.

  13. Cats.
    Absolutely Essential To My Happiness!

  14. The chocolate is implied.

  15. I nominate 'The Day we went to Bangor' as the third song that does not contribute to one's happiness.

    Daughter looks solemn and wistful today.

  16. I think adding cats (or pets, but that means cat for us) is right, the happiness quotient in our house most definitely increased when Bertie Wooster came to stay.

    I'm just reading a biography of the Mitford gels which just covered the Evelyn Waugh connection so I must look up the letter next.

  17. What, you don't like "MacArthur Park" or "A whiter Shade of Pale" by Whatshisname? Is it because, like me, you have no idea what they're about, or that they're not very tuneful??
    I still like them though :)
    In my opinion a politician should be succinct (I wish!), an English teacher should not!
    Your list sounds perfect to me...including the chocolate.
    Perhaps you might add something to laugh at, or someone to laugh with.
    But that's a lot of added words!
    We did have a happy Thanksgiving, thank you, and thanks also for the chuckle :)

  18. I will give you the fact that those songs are very hard to sing- if you are not the original singers!
    I love this post.

  19. being happy is wondering over to one's self delight and hoping to ignite or catch flame to anothers.


    The above sentiment was given to you via my jen zone. - Not the pre-linked JEN ZONE but the honest to goodness JEN ZONE

  21. Happiness is not so much in having as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.Yours is a wonderful blog! Nice Post!