Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Happiness Pursued Was Never Caught

I hold these two.  Contentment comes when sought,
While Happiness pursued was never caught.
   But, sudden, storms the heart with mighty throes
   Whenceforth, mild eyed Content affrighted goes,
To seek some calmer heart, less danger fraught.

Bold Happiness knows but one rival—Fear;
   Who follows ever on his footsteps, sent
   By jealous Fate who calls great joy a crime.
While in far ways ’mong leaves just turning sere,
With gaze serene and placid, walks Content.
   No heart ere held these two guests at one time.

-Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Dear Darling,

What makes you happy?

Are you happy right now? Am I? Is happiness even the goal? Are we sure it even should be. What would make you happy right now? What would be your second choice?

What is happiness? What do you call happy, and when is it? Can it truly be found this side of heaven, and if so, where and how? Is happiness absolute, or on a spectrum? Does it grow because of circumstances or in spite of them? Is it a choice, or serendipity? What causes it? Do we deserve it? Is it selfish any time we pursue our own happiness at the expense of others? Is there a reward for pursuing the happiness of others at our own expense?

Is it better to be easily pleased, or should one derive greater meaning? How much happiness does it take before its pursuit produces diminishing returns, or diminishes the cause of the kingdom?

Good evening Darling, and yes, another fusillade of futility tonight, an inquisition into the depths of inquiry long since probed and plumbed out. If you’d rather find answers than more questions, stay with me, there are some here towards the end.

In asking these questions, one looks to the people around to see what their answer is, and how it is. Of course, it is seldom easy to discover “happy” people in a job dealing with suffering. The slow and grinding years of absorbing pain and sadness do seem to take a toll on people — there’s a lot of talk of burn-out, and I believe it. And I’ve told you before how different it is from than the lives of the people I see around me. The mid-30’s, buying houses and rings and bassinets.

I recently helped a friend move, finding it encouraging to see so many people set aside their evening to help. But it seemed strange to see a single woman who has lived with her parents rent-free for years move into a house with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, as we carried a plethora of couches, exercise equipment and a massage chair into her house. One person who helped worked at an “experiential center” and conducted “horse yoga.” Yoga. On horseback.

I try not to let envy take root Darling, and I’ve no use for a massage chair. Rather, it’s peculiar to see people self-absorbed with their own amusements and pleasures. They’re far up the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, flirting with self-actualization and esteem, while I’m spending more time in life just trying to get by with safety and productivity, with employment and bills and my studies. People buying houses with more rooms or space than they need and customizing their dwellings, like their lives, to suit their whims, is just a little out of reach. It’s anathema to me. I’m a knight at heart. My dwellings are humble right now. As much as I’d like a nice house, a very nice house, I don’t know that I find great satisfaction in a customization of opulence.  I do see these conditions as temporary. And given that these types of people are several years older than me, it’s still easily believable I’ll overtake them, if one were to draw the comparison.

And aren’t we commanded to have joy? Is it happiness we seek, or peace? Contentment or fulfillment? Ease or Purpose?

Well Darling, being as how I’ve been a bit glum of late, perhaps it will serve you well to hear some of the things that please your Beren’s heart.

What makes me happy? The smell of leather. A cool winter wind, with hints of smoke and snow. The first winter’s fire or the smell of lilac on the first mild spring night. Turning the heat on for the first time, and the first time you grab a jacket for a nippy autumn evening. Driving with the windows down, the wind blowing, and the perfect music playing. Finding a perfect new song or poem that describes exactly how I feel.

I’m happy with live jazz and nature. With bookstores and quiet churches or chapels. A busy but fulfilling night at work.  Classic rock songs, or a perfectly wistful melody on a melancholy evening. A deep, intellectual conversation filled with thoughtful reflection, mutual listening and agreement. A gentle nap on a sleepy afternoon. Weekends. Paydays. The satisfaction of nailing a perfect photograph. A glass of orange juice in the mornings. That moment at the end of your workout when you feel the satisfied fatigue of aches and exertion; catching sight of yourself in the mirror and recognizing progress.

A tune played through adequately on piano. Those rare times when someone actually seems to understand, and offers wisdom that actually applies. Timid wild animals that are unafraid. Black and white movies, and old songs. A long walk. A passage of scripture that reaches out and touches you. Walking with Christ in the Bible. Actually finding the words you want to use in prayer.

Making a dinner. Making a difference. Every piece of equipment I buy, skill I learn, or training I receive to be more prepared against calamity and trouble. And, the times when having it on hand actually makes a difference. An achievement or triumph; an article finished, an interview snagged, a debate won. The kind, unrepayable gratitude of patients or the weak.

I don’t think man was ever meant to be naturally happy absent his better half; I don’t know that I’ll ever be content or fulfilled or at peace until we’re together. But if you ask me whether or not there are times when I am happy, yes.

And so, I hope and trust that you too can find happiness without me. It may be that our time together, as sweet as it is, will be short, and one of us must learn how to be happy again without the other. If that’s so, we’re on great training grounds now, are we not?

Live, and pray and laugh, my love. Let not all of these years of absence be years of silence and famine.

Yours,
Beren

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August 25, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Questions | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy We’ll Be

beachlove-15Dear Darling,

I’ve lately returned from a seaside excursion with friends. I expect you will wonder if I had a pleasant time, and the answer is partially. My friends are a bit absurd, as so much of my generation is. There were some nights where the conversation could be guided into a greater depth of topics, but for the greater part of the trip, self-photography and deep thoughtful conversations on how warm coffee should be. These are adults chronologically more advanced than I, yet the senses of humor drifted between the risque and the childish, the perpetration of acts of flatulence and a childish amusement therein. By virtue of my disapproval , I was rendered the antediluvian mossback.

Furthermore, I found irksome the contemporary conversational expression “I feel like” as a substitute for a statement of belief. Instead of saying “this bread tastes stale” the statement transitions to “I feel like this bread is stale.” Coupled with the trend of phrasing each sentence as a question, I observe that these are symptomatic of the subtle poisonings from relativism, self-centeredness and a slackening of conviction. It seems most Christians I meet are liberalized in some form, shallow in conviction and supposing themselves enlightened because they can see “shades of gray.” I wondered at their intimate knowledge of songs and films not just that fail to honor God, but which actively dishonor Him.

Well then Beren! Is this all that you have surmised in the wake of your retreat? Could you not take even a small reprieve from your consternation over the encroaching ills of society?

Naturally not.

And so you see now my dear, your Beren cannot even holiday by the sea without expounding on his grim expectations for society and the church. Yet I challenge you, as a woman of dignity and grace, to overlook the churlish pastime of breaking wind for idle laughter with no more than a rolling of the eyes.

Satisfaction and fulfillment in their true forms seem more elusive for me. Perhaps it is my situation and circumstances. I prefer the company of those who value purpose and depth over those who prioritize fun and pleasure, and find more loneliness than satisfaction among the latter. I prefer distant mountains, challenges to myself, and a sense of accomplishment. I would rather canoe, camp, hike and cycle, or see more return on my investment than just a moderate tanning of the skin. I prefer that which draws me closer the Lord, and on this trip I quite nearly forgot Him. Furthermore, I found in myself a striking lack of inspiration. I quite thought rejuvenation should be the necessary conclusion of such a trip!

Insofar as you are concerned, your absence wasn’t escaped, merely diminished. You’ll think me rather silly if I tell you I looked for you as I made my way through the concourses and byways of my trip. You do think me silly, I am sure, but I’m not afraid to own it.

I did find time for reading and relaxation. And I suppose I am dissatisfied to find the trip dissatisfying, if you take my meaning. Happiness is simple, but not easy.

Ahh, but then there were the moments wherein I imagined you present. I rewrote the script in my head starring you, and bathed the moments in the imaginings of us. The planning of the trip, and the packing. The travel, the arrival. The dinners out, the picnics together. I saw you in a gentle island-print dress as we dined on seafood, and I saw you silhouetted against a nautical sunset as we waded in a tranquil sea of deep red. I saw the freedom we had with each other, the breathless racing back to privacy when desire overcame us.

I wrote to you but once throughout the week, a letter which was surrendered to the waves by twilight.

So Darling, as you lay your head on the pillow tonight and if your thoughts drift to your future groom, consider that somewhere beyond the sea, your lover stood on golden sands and watched the ships as they sailed, and thought of you. In the company of friends and food, still the moments were incomplete, and he spent them loving you. And that we may very well return to these shores, to the fulfillment of the song that flowed through my head each day: “Happy we’ll be beyond the sea; and never again I’ll go sailing.”

Yours,
Beren

June 26, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness | , , , , , , | Leave a comment