Jin Shengtan was a 17th century Chinese writer who once found himself stranded with a friend in a temple for ten days because of a rainstorm. While thus secluded, the pair compiled a list of 33 of the truly happy moments in life. The resulting book was called Chin’s 33 Happy Moments. The wonderful thing about his moments is their lack of piety. Happiness is seen not as a constant state, but as an occasional surprise.
Here is Chin’s fourth happy moment:
I have pulled out the flowering trees in front of my studio, and have just planted ten or twenty green banana trees there.
Ah, is this not happiness?
Here are some Idler readers’ happy moments:
It’s freezing cold and the wind is blowing. Standing along the platform, commuters huddle under umbrellas; having left mine at home, water drips down my neck – my trousers and shoes are soaked. The departure board shows “Delayed due to signalling problems” but gives no indication of when my train is due. Then, through the gloom, amber lights appear – a train approaches – on the front I make out the words: “Hereford” – My train! I board and take a seat, I feel warmth, I hear people sigh with relief – the rain-streaked cityscape of Birmingham glides past the window – I head for home.
Ah – is this not happiness? David Mair
I had just moved to Oxford. Everything was new and unfamiliar. I didn’t even know which my nearest bus stop was. Suddenly, I realised I had reached it, pressed the ‘Stopping’ button and in a slight panic as I had nearly overshot the mark, got off. Seconds later, but not before the bus had pulled away, I realised I had left my handbag on the bus with my entire life inside it — keys, purse, phone, money, credit cards, driving licence, everything. What was I going to do now? I couldn’t even get into my own home. I knew nobody in the city and even if I did, I couldn’t have contacted them without money or a phone. However would I even contact the bus company? I had absolutely no idea what to do Then, a few yards up the road, the bus stopped again. A woman peered out, waving something black. ‘Is this yours?’ she asked. Yes!
Ah – is this not happiness? Liz Hodgkinson
In the late afternoon in autumn when the sun is low and yellow and the light catches all the yellow leaves on the ground; the air is fresh, smells like the fallen leaves; the hard parts of the day are done; the cats and rabbits are fed and content, and my daughter is smiling at me about something!
Ah – is this not happiness? Eileen Ordu
Do you have a happy moment? Send your “ah, is this not happiness?” moment to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: “ah!”