A squirrel crossed the road slowly due to the heavy load it was carrying. In its gaping mouth was a hickory nut the size of a billiard ball. He stood on his hind legs and bounced his head back to get a better grip on his work. He labored forward again in a precarious balancing act just as a garbage truck came flying around the corner. Making a quick decision, the squirrel dropped the nut and scurried to the other side of the road.
As the truck zoomed by, the nut blew down the street. Running towards it, the squirrel uttered a two-syllable squawk that sounded like a martial artist’s battle cry, “Kiai!” He pounced on the rolling nut, tucked it awkwardly into his little mouth, lumbered across the road and made his way through thick underbrush.
At last, he heaved the giant hickory nut inside a hollowed out tree. The squirrel let out a satisfying sigh, raised his furry paw in a rewarding fist pump and appreciated his cache of nuts. He spent the rest of the morning frolicking in the leaves, swinging from bird feeders, leaping from limb to limb and generally enjoying life.
Watching that tenacious squirrel got me thinking. What would happen if the same squirrel decided collecting nuts was too difficult, boring or unimportant? What if he waited around for someone else to gather nuts for him, tried to steal another squirrel’s hard-earned nuts or devised some greedy plan to gather all the nuts in the woods for himself? What if, in some esoteric philosophical meltdown, he realized he’d be much happier if he wasn’t a squirrel at all?
Okay, that’s a little nutty, but couldn’t we all learn something from that joyful critter as we search for a life of meaning and satisfaction?
The self-help section of our library holds dozens of books with similar titles ~ Happiness, True Happiness, Real Happiness, Stumbling On Happiness, The Happiness Advantage, The Happiness Project, The Art of Happiness, How Happiness Happens and Happiness Now! (The exclamation mark is actually a demanding part of the title.)
Happiness is a hot topic. Yet, statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health are increasingly grim. Maybe we’re putting too much focus on this happiness thing. Maybe the more we humans intellectualize the intangible idea of happiness, the more elusive it becomes.
That squirrel reminds me of a few folks I’ve known who never seem to give much thought to the idea of happiness, yet always seem content. People who do what needs to be done at home, at work and in the community. People who find enjoyment in the simple things ~ hard work, hot soup, cold beer.
People who, at the end of the day, let out a satisfying sigh, raise their hand in a rewarding fist pump and smile at their own cache of nuts. §