Am I a sourpuss? I don’t think so, though the world has tried very hard to make me one. There are still a lot of things that make me sometimes quietly and sometimes even boisterously happy.
I am happy that without any kind of sociopolitical clout, I have earned the right to be called ‘Sir’ by just about everybody, from my pupils, ex pupils and their parents to neighbours, policemen and politicians and bankers and shopkeepers and mechanics that I know.
I am happy when old boys reminisce with nostalgia about their class days.
I am happy when I find young people who read a lot of good books.
I am happy every time I see signs of kindness and charity.
I am happy that poverty has visibly reduced in this country: I rarely see the kind of hungry people in rags that I saw everywhere in my childhood.
John Denver sang ‘Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy’, and bright, crisp, balmy days make me happy always, as today was.
Finding good new authors to read never fails to make me happy.
Hearing that my daughter’s friends call me a cool dad makes me happy.
I am happy that medicine and surgery have very significantly improved – people, at least if they have money, suffer much less, for much less time these days than fifty years ago.
It makes me happy that I managed to rise above poverty by my own efforts in my youth, and that I am inching towards affluence, without ever taking recourse to crime or self-abasement.
The internet makes a very private person like me happy by providing so much entertainment at home. I rarely go to the cinema any more – hardly twice in the last five years, in fact.
It is, I have discovered with surprise not unmixed with bemusement, hard even to enjoy one’s happiness. It is not only that other people try very hard to take it away if they become aware of it, because they can’t bear to see anyone happy for long, the likes of me even suffer from a guilty conscience – ‘Do I have a right to be happy?’ There is the voice constantly warning me inside not to turn into a happy fool, like so many I have seen. And if nothing else, there’s always the anxiety over the knowledge that I, like everyone else on earth, am running out of time…
I have made thousands of people laugh, though they all know I am basically a very serious person. I read this story about a monk who made people laugh, while still managing to live a sober, industrious and saintly life, and when he died and was being cremated, he was still making people laugh through their tears because the fireworks he had hidden in his clothes were going off one by one. That is the kind of man that I admire.