Like many people my family and I spent winter mostly indoors, either in our own home or the homes of friends and in schools and workplaces. However the insular season of winter is behind us now. No longer do we hurry from the warmth of school or workplace, through the dark and back to the cosy security of our homes where the biting winds and icy rain can be shut outside and ignored. Now Spring is with us and everyone is venturing out of their homes into their gardens, into parks and even to beaches.
I don’t know if it’s uniquely English but each season seems to bring with it a longing for the next. Part way into Winter and in the absence of snow my family were longing desperately for the end to dark afternoons and for the arrival of spring so that evenings would get lighter, days longer and the weather would improve so we could spend time outdoors. Now Spring has lost its lustre and we’re looking forward to Summer, to picnics, beach visits and garden barbeques. for the cool beauty of Autumn as everything changes again.
The common theme though is a yearning for something beyond our immediate grasp. We can spend a lot of time looking for the next big thing as if that will make us, magically, feel better about our lives. It can affect every aspect of our life as well. As an amateur artist I spent years trying different materials, convinced the right combination would enable me to paint or draw like the people I wanted to emulate. One day I was drawing on a pavement with a piece of brick, entertaining my daughter who was 4 years old at the time, and I suddenly realised that whatever I draw with, I draw like me. Drawing fulfills me, drawing with a new pen makes me briefly happy. Many people have similar stories of finding fulfillment through realising they aren’t what they own.
Life, I believe, is about a search for fulfillment, not happiness, and I think fulfillment comes from feeling you have made a difference. I don’t believe happiness, as we define it, is achievable or desirable as a constant. I find being a father fulfilling. Does it make me happy all the time? Sometimes it makes me want to scream but those are often the moments when it is the most fulfilling, when I can make a difference in my children’s lives. We will never be fulfilled by the arrival of Spring, by a new car or big screen tv. At best that brings a fleeting happiness.
In Matthew chapter 10 in the Bible Jesus tells a rich man to sell all he owns and give away the money to achieve that peace that his is seeking. The man cannot do it. He cannot believe that having less will make him more fulfilled, yet Jesus’s disciples gave up everything and found something so fulfilling it was worth dying for.