Happiness is Winning the World Series after 108 Years November 04 2016
Just ask the Chicago Cubs what happiness is and they will tell you. Winning the World Series for their team and their community after 108 years of no participation in the Series or championship wins is the “sweetest thing, with no words to describe it,” one elated team member said to a journalist when the last inning was completed and the Series was won.
That word, “happy” or “happiness,” is a mysterious word, overused in the USA. Deviating from the sports arena for a moment — the word happiness is used frequently about schools and teachers and education. Recent surveys done by private schools indicate that many parents choose private schools because they want their child(ren) to “be happy.”
Teachers know best of all that many parents will say, “I just want my child to be happy,” when they choose a school or evaluate a child’s success in school. They also understand that this can be a dangerous concept when applied to a human life. Most of us can be happy in life but still have a bad day now and then, or have an unfortunate incident interrupt a generally happy life.
In Waldorf schools, the goal is to educate “the whole child” and though many schools will state the same thing, it means something very specific in a Waldorf school. Waldorf teachers take up the mystery of the will in human beings. The effort is not only to engage a child’s will through a good sports program but to engage a child’s will through the practice and craft of work, preferably hard work. Teaching a young human being how to work is a key to solving the mystery of the will and to opening a path to true and lasting “happiness.”
To know how to work is to understand how to assess a situation, then to line up possibilities of how the situation can be handled, then to decide which solution to a situation will be employed, and then to do what has been decided, and to stick with it until it is completed. Assessing the results to proclaim the situation solved and the work done produces satisfaction — happiness. When a young person does this repeatedly and in many different situations, an inner habit of soul is cultivated, an inner habit of determined attitude. The modern gesture of standing around helplessly unable to engage or understand or decide or take action is less and less a possibility after repeated practice of engagement in work.
Just imagine the decades of practice, steady hard work, the ignoring of anything negative, consistent hope, and positivity a team like the Cubs had to employ to attain the victory for more than hundred years! This is physical, emotional and spiritual work of a highly disciplined nature.
Once a youngster repeatedly experiences that work can move something forward enough times to comprehend it on every level of human comprehension, that youngster is likely to take action, do something, empowered to engage and execute a solution or an advancement of one sort or another when faced with a challenge.
One reason a young person who knows how to work wants to do this is that time and time again he or she has experienced the satisfaction of working to the completion of a task. This feeling of satisfaction makes it well worth doing it again. It makes a person happy to view with satisfaction something completed and well done. It makes a person happy to recognize the participation in work towards an end result. It can especially make a person happy to work with other people, sharing the labor, collaborating on problem solving, commiserating about the challenges along the path to the goal, and encouraging each other along.
Just ask any member of the Cubs baseball team. That win of the World Series was made deliciously satisfying because of the 108 years of loss and challenge, being called a club of losers, that went before it. If they had been a team that won the World Series many times, it would be a happy thing, surely, but it would be a less intensely joyful win.
So when parents and teachers hear that a child has had a bad day, or that a bad thing has happened, or that this child is feeling UNhappy, to energetically pity the child in analyzing the unfairness of the events that befell might not be the most productive path back to happiness. It might be better to help the child decide what he or she will DO about this unhappiness.
If we admit that challenges actually deepen future happiness, we can better lead to a discussion of what could be done to improve the situation. Even setting to work at something, just anything, can move the unhappiness to engagement, effort, and a change in disposition. Instead of discussing things with a young person, it might be better to ask for help stacking wood, or cleaning a room up, or tackling homework, or painting a wall. Once the work begins, the will becomes engaged, and the feelings of the young person invariably shift.
At the end of a time of work, most often a child then feels happy — well, at least happy-ER. This is critically important at the time of the onset of puberty. The remarkable and overwhelming rapidity of physical growth at this time (a girl’s larynx, for example, grows to three times its original size, a boy’s larynx grows to seven times its original size in about eighteen months once puberty sets in) gives a young person a great deal to manage. Feelings careen around at this time in a human life. The changes going on are too quick and too numerous for a child of twelve, thirteen, or fourteen to digest or manage alone. So, the child assumes it must be everyone else around them who is changing, not they themselves. But when a pre-teen complains about hurt feelings or gross injustices at school, to be met with compassion and a fast-following redirect to do some work helps a lot more than dwelling on the inevitable pains of life.
Once the will is engaged, we are drawn to the future and think less and less of the past. Once the will is engaged our feelings of helplessness are transformed into purposefulness, usefulness, determination. At the end of a session of some kind of work, often a teenager has forgotten what it was that was so upsetting or views it in a more positive light (or in a less dire light, at any rate).
This works at all ages, of course. Once a five-year-old stubbornly refused to help the teacher to pick up the toys from the free play time in the kindergarten. He got so upset and angry at the teacher for insisting, that he picked up a pole and lifted it to strike the teacher. In a twinkling the teacher said, “Oh wait, that’s not a good stick. Here’s a better one.” She quickly switched the raised pole for a broom. “Hey wait,” said the boy, “This is a broom.” The teacher cheerfully replied, “Of course it is. Isn’t that better? A plain stick can’t do much, after all.” and the boy, without thinking, began to sweep. In a matter of a few productive strokes of the broom, the boy was once again the teacher’s friend. The will is a magical part in us all! The will is a delicious mystery.
This is what Waldorf educators mean by teaching the whole child. This is instructing the will of a youngster to know how to work; instructing the feelings of a child to follow the will into dedicated effort; and instructing the thinking of a child to figure out the best idea for getting work completed. To have this inner attitude honed to an automatic readiness, to view obstacles as challenges and not prematurely as defeats, to have the will to work, and the gladness to have work to do, this is an educated, whole human being.So the popular overuse of the word, “happy,” ought to bring some caution. The danger is to think that being happy is having no limits (tons of candy, trips to Disney World, lots of money, a school in which no one ever yells at you, a very expensive, sleek, fast car). It might just be something very different from that. It might just be that each challenge makes a future accomplishment happier still, more satisfying, more richly rewarding. Challenges well met are what make us really, really happy. Just ask the Cubs!