Yesterday, I used a free movie ticket and treated myself to Hector and the Search for Happiness. I don’t know about you, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve been looking for happiness. Sometimes, it’s just there, in every breath, like the day I was married or when my children were born.
But other days… not so much.
Happiness can be elusive on days when the water heater goes out, the car brakes squeak so loudly that all the other drivers look at you as you coast to a stop, the outfit you were planning to wear has a big stain on it, or when you’re laying on the floor of the bathroom wishing your stomach would stop trying to go inside out. Those days. We’ve all had them.
Even in the midst of them, it’s not a bad thing to search for happiness. Because it’s there. Always there.
You just have to look for it.
That’s why the movie appealed to me. We spend a lot of time so bogged down in the unhappiness of life that we forget to look for good in the middle of it. In the movie, which is based on a book (now I’ll have to read it to see if the book is better than the movie… aren’t they all usually?), Hector is a psychiatrist who finds his life – and the lives of his patients – rather mundane, predictable, and void of any real joy. So he decides to travel the globe, researching exactly what brings people happiness, hopefully learning its secret for himself. He keeps a journal and lists the lessons he learns along the way. I think the list in the book is a bit different from the movie, and while most of the lessons are worthwhile, No. 5 from the movie was my favorite:
Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that having unhappiness in our lives allows us to experience true happiness more fully. The old “you have to walk through the valleys to get to the mountaintop” kind of thing… But it’s true, isn’t it? When it’s hot, we appreciate the cold. When it’s cold, we miss the heat. When we’re young, we want to be independent and older. When we’re older we miss our unbothered and responsibility-free youth. When we’re broke, we wish for the security of a full bank account. When we have a full bank account, we long for the days that life was uncomplicated. We seem to never be satisfied and instead want what was, isn’t or will never be.
Unless… unless we choose to recognize that everything is part of the larger picture, and the things that cause us unhappiness are merely bumps along the road. The road that ultimately brings us to Him.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
One of my favorite scenes in the movie – without giving too much away – was when Hector was sent back to a village in Africa after being mistakenly imprisoned. Gratitude and hope overtook him, and he ran, skipped and jumped all the way back, shouting “I’m alive! I’m alive! I’m alive!” He noticed, and reveled in everything that meant he was both physically and emotionally alive. At that moment, he completely surrendered to finding joy in the simplest of things.
I want to live that way.
Every minute of every hour of every day of every year I have left on this earth.
We have to consciously look for the silver lining. We have to look around and see the gifts that have been abundantly set before us. The delight on a child’s face as he scoops up leaves. The groom as he sees his bride walking down the aisle toward him. The breeze as it ruffles your hair. A full refrigerator. The warmth of a dog that places its chin on your lap for love. Socks that warm your feet in winter time. These can be constant lessons and reminders that love and happiness is all around us.
Some of the other lessons from Hector’s list included:
No. 1: Making comparisons can spoil your happiness.
No. 8: Happiness is being with the people you love.
It’s only fair you know the movie is rated R, and that it isn’t all, well… happiness. Neither is life, actually. There are some gritty scenes, and it definitely is not family friendly. Before you think that I would recommend it to you, be aware that there isn’t even the slightest reference to God at all, unless you count the scenes of Hector with Tibetan monks.
God is in everything though… EVERYTHING. Including secular movies. If you sift out all the junk, the meat is still there. God works that way. He’s uses whatever means for us to take notice of His creation. Of Him.
He cares about our happiness. He wants us to search for it. Because fundamentally, happiness is in and through Him.