A former student of his asks a question.

I was lucky enough to be at a dinner for [Bellah] after a talk he gave at Yale, and a former student of his asked him about his experience of graduate school. “I really enjoyed it,” he said. What about being a junior professor? “I enjoyed that too!” he said, smiling. The former student asked him, “Was there ever a period of life you didn’t enjoy?” He smiled and paused thoughtfully. “Well, my wife died recently, and that was simply a fact I had to endure. But, basically, I enjoy life.”

I wanna be like these long-lived Episcopalian guys – like Bellah, and like Richard Wilbur, who’s 92 and still at it.

“I feel that the universe is full of glorious energy,” [Wilbur] explained in an interview with Peter Stitt in the Paris Review, “that the energy tends to take pattern and shape, and that the ultimate character of things is comely and good. I am perfectly aware that I say this in the teeth of all sorts of contrary evidence, and that I must be basing it partly on temperament and partly on faith, but that’s my attitude.”

You don’t have to be Episcopalian.

Then he ended with a question to the Dalai Lama: “Your Holiness, can you tell us what was the happiest moment of your life? “ A silence full of expectation fell in the room, composed of a dozen scientists, some Buddhist scholars and meditators, and a hundred guests. The Dalai Lama paused for a while, looked up in space, as if seeking an answer deep within himself, then suddenly, he leaned forward and said to the Japanese scholar in a resounding voice, “I think …. Now !”

Maybe you don’t even have to be religious.

Beethoven said a thing as rash and noble as the best of his work. By my memory, he said: ‘He who understands my music can never know unhappiness again.’

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One Response to “Robert Bellah (1927-2013) and Happiness.”

  1. JND Says:

    Born in Altus, Oklahoma!

    I enjoyed reading “Habits of the Heart” — all three times.

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