Once upon a time people lived their lives by what the stars told them.
It is not so long ago that doctors would consult their astrological charts before making big decisions. It is said that the law required physicians across Europe to consult the position of the moon before doing anything too ambitious, like blood-letting or surgery.
And every planet was ruled by a sign. When the planet moved near its ruler things were thought most propitious. And still when, for a laugh, we turn to the stars page of one of the British tabloid, we are advised to act boldly when such a happy coincidence takes place.
I have had two fairly rocky years. Not rocky like most people have rocky; but with veins of unhappiness running close in with the ever-present contentment. I have always thought that happiness is like a puddle: it is not a blanket. Even in the worst day something can happen which will make one, for an instant, happy. And there are times when the happy pools are bigger, and there are times when they are smaller, and there are times when they disappear and life is barren.
And the secret of happiness is noticing the tiny pools even on the blackest day.
Those black days, I suppose the planet must be perceived as being far, far away from its ruler, and one should steer clear of hospitals and leeches.
But the converse is also true. Occasionally, the geometry of one’s life must lead to points where almost every event might make one happy; where planet and ruler appraise each other affably. Where God smiles and says, take a load off, why don’t you.
CS Lewis – as I never tire of telling you all- once said “Joy is a stab of longing.”
And he was right. Because much as one would love to freeze a propitious moment, one simply can’t. One must just revel in it and gather strength for the next chapter.
There’s that fantastic episode from the Biblical gospels: Jesus takes all his mates up a mountain. You could stop it right there: I love mountains. There above the world, away from the hubbub of life, one’s perspective changes. Happiness permeates because in the face of the majesty of nature you just want to gawp and be part of creation.
But the story doesn’t stop there.
Jesus’s right hand man, Peter, has a suggestion. Why go back down, he says? Why not just pitch some tents and stay here forever?
Me, I’d have weighed in with Peter. Let happiness last forever.
But Jesus turns on him. It feels harsh and cruel, what he says: “Get behind me, Satan.”
Because everyone has to come down. There’s mankind to save, down the mountain. And pain, and derision, and death and resurrection, if you believe the stories.
But I am up my mountain right now. I’m sizing up my Creator to see if he will let me pitch a tent.
Sod Mankind, I’m staying.
These are pictures of my new workplace.