Book on happiness preaches truth

“Truth will not pass or change. Truth will not go away.”

I love this quote from Blessed John Paul II. The quote sits in a frame in my office, and I look at it often as it serves as a great source of encouragement for me in my work as a Catholic talk show host and journalist.

What is also very encouraging is to see how truth, as in universal truths of God, can be revealed in many ways and in many venues. One recent example of this is an excellent piece published in the Wall Street Journal. The article, “Advice for a Happy Life,” was adapted from the new book by Charles Murray, “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead; Do’s and Don’ts of Right Behavior” (Crown Business, $17.95).

Murray is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and geared his latest work toward 20-somethings transitioning from college life to the real world. As he points out, this group has been raised with the idea that money, success, fame and fun are the key components needed for happiness. They tend to mimic what they see and hear in our media-saturated culture where the idea of long-term commitments and religious beliefs are not only in many ways completely foreign but also considered foolish.

The Wall Street Journal piece focused on what Murray believes are several sure-fire ways to find real happiness and, most likely much to the surprise of his target audience and dismay of Hollywood, the Kardashians and others gracing the entertainment news headlines, none of the guidelines focuses on money, material goods or being footloose and fancy free in relationships. As a matter of fact, Murray’s suggestions were quite the opposite.

No. 1 on the happiness hit parade in Murray’s book is to consider marrying young. Why? Because marrying young, he says, fits into the “start-up” marriage category in which the husband and wife view the relationship as a true partnership for the long-term and one that is built together — the result of a history built on memories and shared experiences, knowing, as Murray explains, “each of you wouldn’t become the person you are without the other.”

And while the author explains there is nothing wrong with having strong career goals and a healthy drive to earn a good income, they have to realize money cannot buy happiness.

At some point, he stresses, if they are enjoying their work and have a solid family life, they need to stop stressing about fame and fortune. “Fame and wealth do accomplish something. They cure ambition anxiety. But that’s all. It isn’t much.”

Perhaps what was most surprising, considering Murray is a self-described agnostic, was his encouragement for young people to take religion seriously. And not a warm-and-fuzzy type of religion but one where they have to dig deep and think about the world beyond themselves.

“Start by jarring yourself out of unreflective atheism or agnosticism. A good way to do that is to read about contemporary cosmology. The universe isn’t only stranger than we knew; it is stranger and vastly more unlikely than we could have imagined and we aren’t even close to discovering its last mysteries.”

So here we have a self-described agnostic’s recipe for a healthy life contained in a non-religious book with lots of publicity in a major secular newspaper — a recipe filled with what are also in so many ways deeply religious principles and ideals pertaining to marriage, faith and family. Truth is truth, and I can’t help but think that the soon-to-be St. John Paul II is smiling down at Charles Murray along with the rest of us.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ava Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.