What is happiness? Why does it appear to be so elusive and what is the key to making it last? And who, in their right mind, would dare try to answer such questions?
The pursuit of happiness is big business. A perusal of any self-help section at your local book store would no doubt produce a bevy of authors and titles.
The latest is A.R. Bernard, author of the new book “Happiness is … Simple Steps to a Life of Joy.” Billed as a contemporary guide to teach what happiness means, how to find it and how to keep it, Bernard asserts happiness is not determined by the size of your paycheck. (No new revelation here.)
“Happiness,” Bernard says, “is a byproduct of the way you choose to live and the things you choose to think.”
Just who is this Bernard guy?
If you ask New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he’ll tell you Bernard is a close personal friend. If you ask Star Jones Reynolds, she’ll tell you he presided over her very high-profile marriage ceremony. Ask any of the 28,000 members of New York’s Christian Cultural Center, they’ll tell you Bernard is their beloved pastor, who has now parlayed his sermons and 30 years of ministry into a book.
The Rev. Bernard, 54, a longtime resident of New York, will be in downtown Minneapolis this Wednesday signing copies of his book at Borders.
I reached him by phone recently and asked him how his book, his first major publishing effort, already in its second printing after one month, is different from other authors’ attempts to answer the same question.
A.R. Bernard: Happiness is not something external or something that is to be pursued … it is about organizing your thinking and your lifestyle to produce that sense of satisfaction. It is managing the spaces in your life, your relationships, and your choices. It is evaluating who you’re are and what you think. There is a wonderful chapter in the book that deals with how to deal with difficult people, by first making sure you are not one of them. The book deals with self-acceptance and taking a positive evaluation of your past experiences and investing that wisdom in your future.
MinnPost: Your book quotes several famous people including Quincy Jones, Billy Graham and even the late Mother Theresa. Did you talk with these individuals yourself?
ARB: Quincy Jones, yes. And I handled Billy Graham’s last big crusade here in New York. Mother Theresa, no. I gathered quotes from a number of difference sources, and I wrote the book to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. So I purposely included quotations from people who are still trying to decide on their faith … like Oprah … (laughter.) It’s organized in a very simple way. It’s not just reading the book; it’s doing the book that will make a difference in your life. It leads you into discovery. One chapter asks you to write down your thoughts. A chapter takes a week of reflection. And it can be done in spite of the busy-ness of our schedules.
MP: In your book, you advise readers not to worry about things they cannot control. What should we be doing instead?
ARB: We should be focusing on what is in our power. We should focus on what we can control even though we think we can’t. Start with identifying who is responsible for your behavior … it’s you. And if you get rid of the blame game and make changes in yourself that will lead to happiness.
MP: Are you happy?
ARB: Very. Because of my core purpose, my core values and the way I’ve chosen to organize my life. I lead a very faith-centered life.
MP: A lot of people look towards the holiday season as a time of happiness. If happiness doesn’t come from a store, then what puts the happy in holidays?
ARB: Reflecting on the value of the totality of a solitary life, your life. It is reflection on the fact that you have a gift, talent and ability, and that the world needs it. It is the discovery of the colors and fragrances of life, people and relationships. The discovery of family. Being able to help someone. It is about love with patience. It is about life with purpose.
MP: What does the “A” and “R” (in your name) stand for?
ARB: That’s part of happiness…the great mysteries in life.
MP: Anything else you’d care to add?
ARB: Yeah, I’ll sum it up for you: Happiness is a way of mind and a way of life. It is a way of thinking and way of living as a result of that thinking. The key to happiness is finding our faith center.
What: Book signing by A.R. Bernard, author of “Happiness is … Simple Steps to a Life of Joy” (Touchstone Faith/Simon & Schuster hardcover original, $21.95)
When: 12:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12
Where: Borders, 600 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis