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The pursuit of happiness |

Sunday Lifestyle

The pursuit of happiness

- Wilson Lee Flores -

The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions. — Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Seek not happiness too greedily, and be not fearful of happiness. - Lao-tzu (604-531 BC)

Happiness depends upon ourselves. - Aristotle (384-322 BC)

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. - Helen Keller (1880-1968)

BUDAPEST, Hungary — What is true hap-piness, and how do we achieve it? This question was uppermost in my mind when touring the glitzy palaces and gardens, the impressive jewelry collections, the priceless art works and museums of the fabled Hapsburg Dynasty that once ruled the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire in central Europe.

From Vienna to here in Prague, I keep coming across the name and memorials to the beautiful but forever-melancholic 19th-century Bavarian-born Austro-Hungarian Empress Elisabeth, more well known here by her nickname “Sisi.” She was the original Princess Diana of the world!

It is amazing and uncanny how history keeps repeating itself. Almost exactly like Princess Diana, who captivated the world as a well-born, pretty bride to the Prince of Wales in a fairy-tale wedding, then underwent an emotional roller-coaster life and suffered a rocky marriage, all abruptly and instantly ended in violent tragedy.

In almost the same way, Empress Sisi was also born into nobility, became the fabulous bride of the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian

Empire, but she eventually got lost in emotional crises, became estranged from her husband and tried to escape the royal lifestyle, then her life suddenly and shockingly ended instantly at the hands of an Italian anarchist assassin. Interestingly, both Princess Diana and Empress Sisi encountered problems with their imperious mothers-in-law.

What was even more surprising was that both Empress Sisi and Princess Diana were physically beautiful, elegant and quite photogenic, but both of them kept dieting and worrying about their physique. In the Schonbrunn Palace of Vienna, one room shows Sisiás exercise paraphernalia due to her near-obsessive concern for her weight despite her sexy physique. Both women were adored, envied by the world, had all that wealth and fame can offer, but both seemed emotionally despondent and tragically insecure.

My favorite portrait of Empress Sisi was that of her coronation as the Queen of Hungary; she looked more beautiful there than many of our supermodels of modern times. In a city tour of Budapest here in Hungary, the lady tour guide Margarita reverentially referred to her as “our beloved Queen Sisi.”

All over Vienna, despite the successful reigns of such Hapsburg monarchs as the wise Empress Maria Theresa and her descendant the hardworking Emperor Franz Joseph I, the Austrian tourism industry and pop culture have made Empress Sisi their all-time favorite royal. The only other famous Austrian who has also come to symbolize the tourism trade is Mozart, the musical genius who died a pauper.

What is it about happiness that seems to elude a lot of us mortals, even those who seem to “have it all” in terms of material wealth, power and celebrity fame like the late Princess Diana, Empress Sisi and even her only son the Crown Prince Rudolf who committed suicide in the Mayerling hunting lodge in 1889 (Austrians are again marking that anniversary next year with more shows, musicals, maybe even new books)?

By the way, it’s also amazing that Austrians and Hungarians are today so endlessly fascinated with the tragic suicide of the 30-year-old Crown Prince Rudolf with his 17-year-old mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera that they’re still producing plays, musicals and ballets about that Mayerling affair in both cities. Out of sheer curiosity, I went to watch a ballet for the first time in my life at the world-famous Vienna State Opera House because the theme was about Mayerling mystery and the tragic life of the heir to the Hapsburg throne. I also discovered that Eduard van der Nüll, the architect of the beautiful Vienna State Opera, had also tragically committed suicide, just because he received a lot of public criticism about his design for this grand building when it was first announced in the 19th century.

Happiness is not about wealth or power. I am sure of that. For if it were, why is that my late mother, a humble teacher her whole life, someone who never enjoyed material wealth, fame, power or success the way we traditionally define success, and also twice widowed, seemed to live a life of simplicity, discipline, faith and unwavering positive attitude? Where does true happiness lie? I believe happiness has absolutely nothing to do with material possessions or creature comforts or even ego.

Whether we are materially rich or poor, whether we face crises or live in comfort, whether we are successful or struggling, whatever our circumstances past or present, I sincerely believe that we all can achieve true happiness and purpose with a positive attitude towards life and the world, if we are at peace with God and with ourselves.

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