The Irish people consistently rank as among the most content with their lives in the Western World. The roots of this are found in the culture of Ireland, which places very strong emphasis on community and friends. I looked at old Irish proverbs to see what the traditional base for this was.
Three core beliefs stood out as being driving forces behind being happy in Irish culture, they are:
1. Material goods do not bring happiness.
2. Enjoy the company of friends and family.
3. Don’t take yourself or events too seriously.
• Material goods do not bring happiness.
Happy is a hard thing to quantify. I like to think of it as being content with the moment and what you have, little as that may be. In Ireland we are noted for being generally content and happy with our lives, even in hard times. Some joke that a sense of humour was the only thing that could not be taken or taxed so we cherished it.
• “An understanding that envy or greed never satisfied a person.”
• “A cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle”
• “A little fire that warms is better than a big fire that burns.”
These were expressed in Irish sayings and blessings known as “sean-fhocail “ meaning “old words”. These are sayings that have a very long history in the Irish language and were to be advice throughout the ages. The earliest recorded manuscript of sayings and Irish blessings is from the 6th Century. The importance of perspective in life and being content with your life and oneself is even evident then.
A monk recorded in the 10th C. Book of Leinster that:
• “Three things that lessen a man: ingratitude for his life whatever it be, grumbling, and flattery.”
• “If you buy what you don’t need you might have to sell what you do.”
• “Do not resent growing old, for many are denied the privilege.”
• Enjoy the company of friends and family.
The social side of Irish culture is well known. Life is not about enjoying yourself with family and friends then what is it about? The famous writer, poet and revolutionary, Brendan Behan, spoke the humble truth at the heart of all desires when he wrote:
“The most important things to do in the world are to get something to eat, something to drink and somebody to love you.”.
One of the most beautiful gifts in the world to give someone is the gift of encouragement, which is a gift of love. When someone encourages you, that person helps you over a threshold you might otherwise never have crossed on your own and this is a two way interaction.
• “We cannot share this sorrow
If we haven’t grieved a while.
Nor can we feel another’s joy
until we’ve learned to smile.”
• “May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!”
• “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures. “
• “May the roof above you never fall in, and those gathered beneath it never fall out”
• Don’t take yourself or life too seriously
Life is all too short and fragile. It is so easy to lose yourself in counter-productive worry and stress, often over things that are temporary or short term problems. This belief appeals to the cynical streak in the Irish Psyche, as every problem is a short term one when you think about it.
These old Irish sayings sum that core belief up quite nicely.
• “If you want praise, die. If you want blame, marry.”
• “It is better to spend money like there’s no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there’s no money!”
• “May you die in bed at 95, shot by a jealous husband.”
• “There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.”
• “Take the world nice and easy, and the world will take you the same”
• “You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was”
Article written by Guest Author, Danny. Please visit his site, Gift of Ireland for more.