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How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!
Still to ourselves in every place consign’d,
Our own felicity we make or find.
IT HAPPENS, AT LEAST NOW AND THEN, THAT EVERYTHING SEEMS “JUST RIGHT.” While the snow falls outdoors, for example, we sit cozily by the fireside with a small group of close friends. There are mugs of hot apple cider. Holiday pastries are within easy reach. Thoughtful conversation is sprinkled with laughter, and there is nothing in this moment except pure, wholesome camaraderie.
“Felicity” is a word that describes the cheerful contentment we feel at such times. It’s a word that brings back the welcome memory of our most treasured times. In its most basic sense, of course, felicity just means “happiness.” (It comes from felix, the Latin word for “happy.”) But felicity is a special kind of happiness.
When we enjoy felicity we experience a “delightful” sort of happiness, a peace that has in it much gladness, cheer, and gaiety. The dictionary defines felicity as “great happiness, or bliss,” but bliss probably sounds a bit over the top to most of us. We’d be more comfortable thinking of a happiness that is bright, sparkling, and festive on the one hand, but also pleasing, calm, and balanced on the other. The feeling is one of cheerful appreciation for our “just right” blessings.
Whether we use the word “felicity” or not, it’s obvious that this is the kind of happiness that often comes to us at this season of the year, especially when family and friends gather. And we perhaps wish that our physical circumstances would line up in the same constellation more often, so that felicity could be ours more frequently.
But truly, the sources of felicity are inside us. It is basically the result of character, the by-product of principled living. On special occasions, we’re most apt to be surprised by felicity if we’ve been cultivating a peaceful conscience on days that didn’t seem so special.
“That discipline which corrects the eagerness of worldly passions, which fortifies the heart with virtuous principles, which enlightens the mind with useful knowledge, and furnishes to it matter of enjoyment from within itself, is of more consequence to real felicity than all the provisions which we can make of the goods of fortune” (James Blair).