For me, a great source of happiness – or perhaps intellectual rejoicing is a more accurate description – is when I find a phrase or word that identifies an aspect of human nature that I haven’t previously understood.
For example, several months ago, I posted about darshan. So satisfying to understand darshan! The world came into focus just a bit more clearly.
Several days ago, while reading the Wall Street Journal, I saw an article by Robert Frank about the “butler boom.” I can’t find the exact article online, which I believe was an excerpt from his book Richistan, but the same material is covered on his blog.
In Frank’s discussion of the butler boom, an unfamiliar term caught my eye: the “service heart.”
And many household managers talked with pride about what they call “the service heart”— the joy of giving their employers exactly what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. As butler student Dawn Carmichael told me, “I loved knowing what made my employer happy. I know that sounds weird, but making him happy made me happy.”
Ah, the SERVICE HEART! Now that I know this description, I see it in the world around me.
People with a service heart will be happier in certain professions than people with the same job who don’t have a service heart, because some jobs lend themselves to expression of the service heart; conversely, such people might be less happy if they worked in professions that didn’t allow them to satisfy that aspect of their personality.
What jobs allow expressions of the service heart? Not just butlers. Executive assistants, chiefs of staff, nurses, special assistants…
The first of my Twelve Commandments is “Be Gretchen,” and I’ve realized that one of the difficulties of “being Gretchen” is that I must accept myself, as is, which means accepting some things about myself that I wish I could change.
I can imagine that a person with a service heart might wish he or she did not have a service heart. People with a service heart relate to the world in a certain way, and a person might want to be different.
Knowing yourself, accepting what really makes you happy (not what you wish made you happy), is a key to happiness. I’m constantly amazed by the difficulty of following this principle, which seems the most obvious, the most trite, the most stale.
Whether or not you’re considering of training to be a butler, to know that you have a service heart — or that you don’t have a service heart — tells you something important about yourself.
If I had the genius and the insight, I would devise a Periodic Table of the Elements for human nature, with the myriad of archetypal forms fitted into an all-embracing elegant pattern. When I was writing Power Money Fame Sex, my favorite times came when I felt that I was groping toward that kind of discovery of the workings of the four worldly desires.
The other day, I read about a study that purported to show that people can get pleasure from paying taxes (this CBC News account isn’t the article I originally read, but it describes the study). Hmmmm, I thought, I love a good counter-intuitive finding, but this is one of those cases where I’m not sure I buy the conclusion, study or no study.
Occasionally, when I read happiness studies, I’m reminded of Samuel Johnson’s refutation of idealist George Berkeley (who, if I remember correctly, denied the existence of matter): Johnson kicked a stone and said, “I refute him thus.”
I didn’t think much more about it until I came across Will Wilkinson’s comments on his Happiness and Public Policy blog, where he explores some of the weaknesses of the study’s design. Very interesting.
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