Unburied Nut from 3rd December 2006; "Thoughts on Happiness and Chasing After Puppies"


Every once in a while, I uncover an old post that I feel could do with another brief moment in the sunlight. Many of these are my early posts which existed at a time when the Realm of the Lone Grey Squirrel was an extremely quiet place with virtually no visitors. Ah, the good ol’ lonely days.

“Felicitas est parvus canis calidus”. This is Latin for “Happiness is a warm puppy.” It is actually a quote from the cartoon strip, Peanuts from the 1950’s. I’m not that old, but I probably came across it in my early teens and somehow that phrase has stuck with me all these years. It is clearer to me today, than all those facts on human metabolism that I spent months revising for my final university exams.

Happiness is a warm puppy. Is this statement true? How many of you would agree with it? The fact that I remember it so well through the flight of time must imply that it has struck a deep chord with me. The pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence as one of the unalienable rights of the people. Honestly, there is a lot of pursuing happiness going on in the world today and it’s not just the Americans but everyone that’s doing it. But are most of us looking in all the wrong places? Might we finally find it in a warm puppy?

Singaporeans used to be told that they need to have the 5C’s in this life and this consideration should guide them in the choice of a life partner. The 5C’s has today increased to 7 C’s and are Cash, Car, Certificate (i.e. University degree), Country club, Credit card, Career and Condominium. (Ladies might even have the 8th C which is Carat, i.e. insist on a diamond ring). The idea is that happiness comes from wealth, prestige, elitism, superior intelligence (with a certificate to prove it), achievements at work and the best creature comforts at home. Singaporeans are also famous for not wanting to keep up with the Joneses. No, Singaporeans strive to be ahead of the Joneses and to rub the Joneses noses in it.

Before, Malaysian-Singaporean relationships deteriorate further, let me say that I use Singaporeans to describe a phenomena that is really spreading throughout much of the world and especially so in Asia. Happiness is cold hard cash, a cool reputation and a classy lifestyle. The pursuit of happiness as envisaged above lead many to put career and wealth ahead of family and friends. Fathers who work hard for their children’s future but do not have time to know their children and for the children to know them. Reminds me of a song called “Cat’s in the cradle” by Harry Chapin.

I have worked with native, jungle dwellers and been part of efforts to assimilate them into modern life so that they might have a better standard of living. While it is true that many will benefit from better health care and better schooling for their children, it is equally clear that they were very happy living in the ways of their ancestors in the jungle and transferring them out of the jungle into settlements has not brought them joy. Often, peaceful communities are torn apart by the introduction of money and the concepts of property amongst peoples who used to share the forests bounty with each other. Some of these projects have improved their economic situation but I really do not know whether it has brought happiness.

So, I return to “Felicitas est Parvus Canis Calidus”. I think it is a beautiful metaphor that all of us need to feel warm, secure and to have the feeling of loving and being loved. It has to do with people; friends and family. Happiness comes from being secure and content while surrounded by the mutual love and support of friends and family. If we are loved and supported for who we are, we do not need wealth or any other trappings to be happy.

So, Snoopy, I think you were right but it was not just because puppies are warm and cute. Perhaps you were more profound than you thought. Cat lovers, I can’t help you.

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