So our definition of happiness is building. It is the result of things that are external to us, like our surroundings. It is also the result of the choices we make as members of various communities. It can come from simple things like seeing a baby smile, but also from complex concepts, like justice.
Defining happiness might be the first step toward understanding it. But it might even be an unnecessary one. As my mother-in-law continued her e-mail, she told the story of my brother-in-law, Ben, when he was 2:
“When Ben was 2 or 2 and a half…somewhere in that age range… we asked him why he was always so happy. He considered the question carefully and said ‘I just decided to be because it feels better.’
“Allan [my father-in-law] and I remember that because he said it at a time of our lives when we were so incredibly busy that we didn’t stop to think about topics such as our happiness. When he said that I realized that I was very happy and that part of it was the fact that I was so busy and involved and felt that I was contributing.”