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The angel on the cover seems to embody happiness, our theme for Summer 2017. His smile and gaze emanate joy and contentment even though he is carved from stone. What might he know that we, mired in our difficult human lives, do not?

Beginning with Sufi master Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, who writes about the beneficence of cleaning, and ending with Helen Keller, who attained happiness in the midst of great affliction, this issue explores the nature of happiness and the ways men and women have shared in it, or not. We learn how Henry David Thoreau, who famously wrote that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” discovered bliss in nature; how pilgrim Ann Sieben finds purpose and delight in walking from sacred site to site; how a prisoner has achieved a certain peace of mind, even on Death Row.

Happiness, we see, does not mean the absence of suffering. As G.I. Gurdjieff wrote, “Every real happiness for man can arise exclusively only from some unhappiness, also real, which he has already experienced.” The “pursuit of happiness,” enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence, is a worthwhile endeavor only when considered within the context of other pursuits—the search for meaning; acts of service; the following of conscience—that necessarily involve suffering, including of the ego. We can’t corral happiness directly any more than we can catch our own shadows.

And yet we see that happiness is attainable, because it always depends upon one universal aspect that we all share: that of relationship. We all exist within the world and its intricate web of energies and influences, both human and divine. As Tracy Cochran illumines in an essay here, fulfullment comes only through opening to that world around us; gripped by fear, she found happiness in a yoga studio where “someone swung open a door and welcomed me in.”

The first issue of Parabola, published more than forty years ago, focused on The Hero and her or his journey. That journey remains ours, and we also realize that no Hero stands alone and that the journey can be fulfilled only through the help of others and the grace of God.

—Jeff Zaleski

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VOL. 42:2 Happiness
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