Recently I went to a local restaurant, sports bar place with some friends. It was late afternoon and the plan was to spend a little time together after work and in a different setting than the one in which we normally interact. I enjoy these opportunities to be with some folks I like, but some of whom I barely know. I especially appreciate the chance to get to know some people who work at the same place I do, but whom I never have the chance to see.
I am always amazed to walk into one of these gatherings and see some faces and have no clue who they might be. It’s a humbling experience, since I usually think I know most people who work at my institution. Wrong! I like the fact that getting to know and spend some time with people is the reason we are getting together. Where we do it is not that important. But I know food and drink often make the occasion more pleasant, so I am happy to participate.
When we go to this kind of place, it is usually Happy Hour. For the most part, that means food and drinks are discounted. That’s a good deal, since we plan to eat and drink anyway. I know Happy Hours are designed to draw people to the restaurant before we might normally go if we wanted simply to have dinner. I appreciate the economic rationale and don’t complain. I go for fun and have food, too.
As I think about this from a spiritual perspective, I am intrigued by the designation that a particular hour (or two) can be happy. I smile when I think some food establishment can rather arbitrarily (it seems to me) declare a particular hour to be “happy.” I understand the intent and know their idea works economically. But I am less sure it works spiritually. Let me develop that a bit.
In the first place, the whole concept of time, as we use it, is a human invention. Of course, we know that nature delivers days and nights. And we know there is a daily rhythm to that---day comes, followed by night and then the next day. But dividing a day into twenty-four hours is arbitrary. I know the Egyptians are credited with dividing the day into the twenty-four hours. And the Greeks systematized it by making each hour the same length. But it was not until the fourteenth century in Europe that mechanical clocks were invented that basically gave us the system we use today. I doubt those Europeans would have thought to make two of those hours “happy hours!”
Again, I certainly don’t want to be known as the person who is against happy hours! In fact, I am very much for happy hours. In fact, the problem with happy hours, as we normally understand them, is they are too short and too narrow. If we spiritualize the happy hour notion, it becomes even more attractive. Let’s proceed.
The key is how we understand happiness. I grant that there is a range of happiness. At the Happy Hour I was happy enough with a soft drink, a glass of wine, some potato chips and whatever. But when I looked back hours later, did the memory of potato chips make me happy all over again? Hardly! Potato chip happiness is pretty superficial and, certainly, very temporary. In fact, if I eat too many chips at Happy Hour, I am likely to become very unhappy!
At the other end of the happy spectrum, think of an hour you spend with your best friend or with grandkids. Probably we are very happy in the moment. And hours later, when we look back, it is typical to get a smile on our faces again. We become happy all over again. Now that truly is a happy hour! I would count these kinds of experiences as spiritual experiences.
In my own case, I think of the hour I spend each week with a group called “Soul Work.” Almost always it is a happy hour. There is rich conversation. There is a great deal of caring the folks do for each other. Often the spiritual depth and profundity is amazing. I hear folks walking away from that hour talking about how happy they were to be there. Truly, I think this counts as a happy hour. And most of us don’t drink a drop nor eat a bite. But we have been fed soul food!
This leads me to believe a true, lasting Happy Hour is one that is memorable and which we enjoy all over again simply by remembering. This is why the birth of a child, marriages, even a good death count as happy hours. It is indeed ironical that a good death can count as a happy hour, but when we live in the Spirit and, then, die in the Spirit, life is a comedy and not a tragedy. There may be tears, but beneath the tears is joy. And days and years later, the tears will have dried and the joy is a happy memory and, therefore, a happy hour.
Seen in this spiritual sense, the lure of our lives is to create numerous happy hours. We will not have to traipse to a local restaurant in the late afternoon hours for their Happy Hour. We have the capacity to create happy hours any time of the day or night and as frequently as we can. The spiritual vision is to live every hour as happily as we can.