Happy New Year! But what, you may ask, is the quickest route to happiness?
Never have there been quite so many books advising us how to be happy. Recent titles include The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living by Dr Russ Harris; 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson; Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self Love Is The Way To Unlocking Your Greatness by Vex King; The Seven Spiritual Laws Of Success: A Practical Guide To The Fulfilment Of Your Dreams by Deepak Chopra; Love Yourself First! Boost Your Self-Esteem In 30 Days by Marc Reklau; and, of course, the perennial bestseller How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
Some titles take after Dale and make firm promises: Think And Grow Rich. Others incline more towards the spiritual: The Holistic Masterclass In How To Truly Love Life.
Some have a slight air of desperation — Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It. Others are more bullish: You Are A Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life.
Needless to say, a fair number of celebrities have muscled in on this flourishing market. Just out is Happiness Becomes You: A Guide To Changing Your Life by Tina Turner, no less. ‘Here, I reveal my greatest untold life lessons, deepest realisations, and beloved ancient rituals to help you recharge your soul,’ she writes in her introduction.
US musical icon Tina Turner has joined the ranks of self-help gurus with her new book Happiness Becomes You: A Guide To Changing Your Life
Thankfully, she soon gets going with her top tips. I had expected raunchy, full-throated, get-down-and-get-with-it advice from Ms Turner, but in Happiness Becomes You, she is much more of a mystic.
‘I learned to listen to my heart, which taught me that you and I are connected to each other and everything else on this planet. We are joined together by the mysterious nature of life itself, the fundamental creative energy of the universe.’
Golly. It all goes to show how tricky it is to link any given celebrity with his or her advice. Take these four examples of words of wisdom, all derived from the earth:
A) Rocks unattended turn into mounds, and then mountains.
B) Let a hundred flowers bloom, and a hundred schools of thought contend.
C) The thicker the mud, the stronger the lotus that blooms from it.
D) If our hearts are closed, if our hearts are made of stone, the stones find their way into our hands and we are ready to throw them.
Now, match the words to the person who said or wrote them:
i) Tina Turner
ii) Mao Tse-tung
iii) Oprah Winfrey
iv) Pope Francis
The answers may surprise you: A iii; B ii; C i; D iv. As you can see, celebrity advice is much of a muchness, whether it comes from Tina Turner or Chairman Mao.
I’ve noticed that those who make a habit of dispensing wisdom often make a bee-line for the sky. This must be because the sky provides the largest blank canvas of them all, ready for any metaphor one wishes to pin on it.
Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, depicted here in a portrait, was just one person who looked to the sky for inspiration
Who said: ‘The sky stays, but the clouds come and go’? Who said: ‘Don’t forget: beautiful sunsets need cloudy skies’? And who advised: ‘Keep your nose out the sky, keep your heart to God, and keep your face to the rising sun’?
The first was coined by Sarah, Duchess of York, the second by the New Age guru Paulo Coelho, and the third by rapper Kanye West, but they are interchangeable.
Add to the mix, ‘Women hold up half the sky’ (Chairman Mao) and ‘When I look up the sky, it gives me a nice feeling, like looking at an old friend’ (Yoko Ono), and you may begin to see what I mean.
Even Donald J. Trump has found wisdom in the sky. Before he went haywire in his inaugural address, he came up with this observation, so blandly universal that it might have been spoken by any president at any time: ‘And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same Almighty Creator.’
In my next column, I will examine how the happiness gurus love to see life as a journey, or a river, or both.