29th July 2014

Happy – Finding your room without a roof

Pharrell Williams’s upbeat and catchy song ‘Happy’ is known all over the world. Maybe few people ask what the lyrics really mean, most especially, ‘Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof’. When someone asked the singer, ‘Why is a room without a roof happy?’ he answered, ‘It is metaphorical for one’s space without limit… This emotion can be infinite and achievable by all.’

But is happiness just an emotion? Is it achievable by all? Is clapping your hands and dancing to the tune really making us happy? If we look within ourselves and outside of ourselves do we see happiness? Is happiness just not being sad?

The search for happiness is common to every human being. The Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that ‘no one deliberately chooses to be unhappy’. However the Word of God reminds us that our choices are vital in whether we end up being really happy or not.

There seem to be 4 levels of happiness but only the last level is the real happiness that is experienced deep within our hearts. Something that distinguishes these levels of happiness is their duration.


“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to shop”
(Gerturde Stein, American author).

This type of happiness is based on something outside myself, an external stimulus.

I see pizza, I eat the pizza, it makes me feel good, I am happy.

I google iPad, I order the iPad, I receive the iPad, I am happy.

Advertising is what constantly entices us to “get this”, “eat that”, “look like this and you will be happy”.

The problem here is that even when they are good things, the happiness based on instant gratification is short lived – once they are over we need to replace them quickly.

Furthermore, the pleasures that cause this level of ‘happiness’  are very easily abused and misused – drugs, sex, alcohol, materialism – and they actually produce unhappiness.

Level 2: LIVING FOR MYSELF (Ego Centric)

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go”
(Oscar Wilde, Irish writer and poet).

We all have an ‘ego’ – the inner person where we feel, think, choose and act.  The drive to feel good about ourselves is strong and many people try to achieve this by striving for a ‘comparative advantage’ over others. It is always looking over its neighbour’s shoulder and we see ourselves and our happiness in terms of how we measure up to others and how many ‘ego massages’ we get.

This level of ‘happiness’ consists in saying: “I have more money more than Peter”, “I  am more successful than Jane”, “I am better in sports that Joe”, “My girlfriend is more attractive than his”, “I got better results”.

In other words it is very ego-centric and thrives on people’s admiration and affirmation and our sense of being popular and superior to others.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to excel. If men did not have the ambition for progress we’d still be in the Stone Age.  The problem here is that there is always someone who is better than us. Even if we did indeed reach the top what comes next? This level of ‘happiness’ is terribly unstable because we can lose our position very quickly due to failure. This in the long run can make us feel worthless and unhappy.

Level 3 LIVING FOR A CAUSE (Altruistic)

“True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose”
(Helen Keller). 

We are most truly human when we look beyond our own selves and use our time, energy and talents to do good to others or give ourselves to a worthy cause that we think will make the world a better place. From helping a friend in need, to doing some voluntary work or going on a missionary trip, to joining a ‘Save the Planet’ group, we feel we are moving towards a greater degree of self-fulfillment.

When we discover that Level 2 doesn’t make us happy many young people proceed to level 3 which is good but not the real joy and happiness we were created for. The problem here lies that we still may not be addressing our deepest spiritual needs. Furthermore, because of our own hurts, we easily put barriers around our hearts, finding it easier to lose ourselves in activism or to do good things for others whilst finding it difficult to be loved. We may remain very much in need and want to cry out ‘Hey I’m a person too’.

Level 4 LIVING IN JESUS (Christian Spirituality)

“Happiness is neither inside us nor outside us. It is in God, God in us and outside us”
(Blaise Pascal, French philosopher).

What Pascal has said is being experienced by countless youth around the globe, a perfect source of a deeper quality of happiness.

We begin to discover God’s purpose for creating us – to know Him and to hear and believe the Good News that our sin and separation from Him have been taken care of by Jesus’ Death and Resurrection.

Life is a gift from God. We are here for short while on a journey towards eternity. God promises that our choice to live in this level will spill over into an eternal happiness till now never experienced or even imagined. Our giving ourselves to Him means that we now live for His cause, to love other in concrete ways and to share the joy of Gospel with them too.

Sadly few people associate God with happiness. Many think that we have to choose between the two. This cannot be further from the truth. God is happiness itself. In fact Jesus tells us that by being in a genuine relationship with Him we should expect that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be completeJohn 15:11.

In Mark 2:1-12 we read the story of a man who found a ‘room with a roof’ which his friends turned into a ‘room without a roof’. It reminds us that sin and guilt are real issues in our lives that can really paralyse us. Jesus longs to save us, to forgive us and to heal us. We too can experience the joy and happiness of the Lord by turning to Him sincerely, developing a genuine spiritual iife and serving Him in others.

‘Nothing created has ever been able to fill the heart of man. God alone can fill it infinitely.’
St. Thomas Aquinas