The Art of Happiness by John Cowper Powys
… It is one of the conceited illusions of intellectual people that they alone live an imaginary life. Everyone lives an imaginary life in the sense that everyone half-creates by his peculiar nerves and temperament the constitution of the material world he confronts.
It is extraordinary, when you really think of it, how few people there are who make any habitual effort to deal deliberately and intensely with their secret reactions to life. We live in a perpetual pathetic hope that things are going to be “better”, which means outwardly nicer and outwardly pleasanter for us. We lavish our energy on plans to improve our condition but seldom concentrate it on heightening our mental reaction to the moment as it passes.
And yet everything else is of minor importance to this. Even our conscience - that formidable tyrant of our actions – is slack and feeble when it comes to our thoughts. The innumerable hours we spend on self-pity or on building castles in the air wherein to enjoy ourselves is a proof of this.
We ought to get it lodged in our conscience that the noblest, greatest, highest, deepest obligation we have, our one grand piety, our supreme return to the cosmos for giving us consciousness, is to heighten our mental life from moment to moment. And the heightening of our mental life means rousing up of our whole nature to defy and to enjoy, to defy the evil things, to enjoy the good things, to act as a destroyer and a creator in our secret consciousness. When you do this, when your soul gathers itself together to force your surroundings to respond to its resolute will it puts itself in sympathy with the whole creative life-tide and in opposition to the Ancient Antagonist. Is not this a thing worthy of the human conscience?
When you realise that the whole drama is a mental drama, and that the whole poignancy of it and tragic grandeur of it lies in these secret mental struggles with the demons of worry, misery, apathy, you realise that you are an important “Persona” - as important as any other living soul– in the great eternal tragic play. And what is more, you not only tap the invisible life-stream, as against the death- magnetic contact with the life-aura of uncountable numbers of fellow-creatures, dead and forgotten before you were born to carry on the torch, fellow-creatures who in their day wrestled with apathy, misery and worry, and whose magnetic energy lives still in the elements around you. Every time when in dreary an depressing conditions you refuse to yield to the death-pull you associate yourself with a multitudinous army of stout hearts, most of whom have borne worse things that you will ever have to bear.
Not a moment of your life, when, from the magic of those mysterious aspects of the universe which appeal to your particular human senses your soul has roused itself to snatch its secret joy, is lost in futility. The great secret tragic play of the mental world of our race lies behind this moment’s triumph giving it an eternal significance. Because of this rousing of your inmost identity to defy the death-pull and to enjoy the unfathomable pleasure which you soul half creates and half discovers, you have added something to the reality of existence which will always remain.
Vibrations will pass from it, are even now passing from it, that will long out live you.
The mental life of the whole human race resembles the accumulative invisible Novel of a super-Dostoyevsky, heavy with an unfathomable burden of good and evil; and every moment of which you soul rises up from the depths of its being and defies these accursed devils of misery, worry and apathy, you add something that helps to determine the grand invisible drift of this cosmic work of art. What we call reality has many layers of various and differing degrees of intensity. The visible world, since it changes according to the eye or according to the mood that regards it, is less “real” than our intense inner life of thought, while our inner life of thought is itself less “real” than the unknown dimension that surrounds and includes it…