I knew I had a calling for happiness from a very early age. I was thirty when my father asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I sucked my thumb for a moment, gazed up into his wise, fatherly face, then, withdrawing my thumb and waving it toward the sky, I cried, “President of the world, Pa! That’s what I want to be!”
Pa didn’t stop laughing for almost three hours. Then he took a sedative, swigged at the bottle of gin he always kept in the top drawer of his desk, tweaked my nose, ruffled my hair, and said, “Hey, son, that’s great news. But let me tell you this for sure – whatever you do, don’t ever grow up!”
I tried my best to follow my father’s advice but following Pa’s advice is something I’ve never been good at. Over the intervening years I grew up quite a bit. I’m now seven three (in heels), long in the tooth, greying of hair and widening of girth. In fact I’m almost as wide as I’m tall – and with each year I draw closer to an ideal representation of a sphere… I’ve become, at least in one sense of the word, increasingly worldly as I’ve aged.
Yet none of this has changed my perspective on life. My wild ambition remains undaunted, as does my dedication to being happy and to helping others find happiness too.
After that perplexing yet formative episode I needed to decide what to do with my life prior to becoming world leader. These things don’t just happen all at once, you see. They take planning, preparation and patience, patience, patience. So, as anyone might have predicted, my mind turned to the notion of joining a cult. I had come to see that it was my Ma’s turn to laugh so hard that she needed medication and I was confident that this was the way to do it.
People tell you that you should take your time when preparing to embark on momentous journeys, so I took my time. Years later I researched a few cults. There were some I liked, some I loathed, some I found a little disturbing… and some that weren’t even funny. (“A cult that’s not funny!” I remarked to Ol’ Stephanie, my wife. “What’s the point of that???”) Eventually I joined a cult that claimed that it wasn’t a cult at all. It was called the Church of the Third Veil. After three months of orgies and meditation I went home and told my ma. I couldn’t wait to see her face! “Ma,” I said. “You won’t believe what I’ve gone and done!”
I told her all.
Nothing. No response. It was like talking to a corpse in the final stages of putrefaction.
So I embellished the facts a little. “What d’ya think of that, Ma? Pretty amazing, eh? …Ma?”
When that got me nowhere I embellished the facts a lot: techniques, positions, more techniques, more positions, everything – but to no avail. Ma didn’t even break a smile. “Go to it, son,” was all she said – and “That’s my boy!” and “Give ’em hell!”
So I did.
The Church of the Third Veil sacked me some three years later, by which time I was their Spokesman for Alien Invasions, Hostile Incursions, Renditions, Water Boarding, Foreign Affairs and The Environment. As I later told Ol’ Stephanie, this was quite a blow. For a brief few weeks I suffered a diminution of my normally miraculous “h”-factor. The sense of happiness that had kept me ticking over even when the engine of my life stuttered and stalled was still there, deep inside me, throttling hard, but for a scant year or two it felt muted, dulled, daunted by the tribulations of life and time. Had I taken a wrong turn in life? Had it all gone horribly wrong? Was I plummeting into an abyss from whence I could never return? However, being almost perfectly ball-shaped by then, I bounced back in no time at all and came up with an alternative ploy.
After a most peculiar initiation I joined that sinister and litigious cult, the Savantologists. The Savantologists are a very different kettle of fruit and vegetables from the frankly raving Church of the Third Veil – and their path to enlightenment is a very merry and expensive one. But one thing kept me going. The sight of me, Luke Andreski, being enlightened, would be a sure-fired way of making Ma laugh!
So, poorer, thinner, older and wiser I found enlightenment of the Savantological kind… and went home with a great big smile on my face. I went in to my mom and she was there, in the chair she always sat in, and she looked up at me with that look she always gave me, and I showed her the new, enlightened me. “Look ma! It’s me!”
I even did a twirl.
Ma didn’t laugh.
She didn’t even smile.
She just gave me that mean, beady look that any son knows spells truble and said, “Son, your pa’s not very happy…”
“Pa’s not happy?” I tremoloed – all a tremble with worry and doubt and that extra little tingle of fear that I always got when my pa was mad. (What he did to those neighbours when they parked their car in front of our drive is another story entirely…)
“Wh – why, Ma? Why’s Pa not happy?”
“It’s you, son,” Ma said.
“Me, Ma?” I squeaked.
“Yes, you, son.” She looked at me long and hard, then said, “What’s all this following this and following that, son? What’s all this ‘being this’ and ‘being that’? What all this to-ing and fro-ing and um-ing and ah-ing when you were meant to be a force for good, a leader of men, a finder of truths… president, for crying out loud, of the whole wide world? Isn’t that what you said you were going to be? Isn’t that what you told your pa?”
“Ma!” I said. “Why, Ma – !”
There were tears in my eyes. Then there were tears on my cheeks. Then there were tears dribbling down my chin. I wasn’t completely sure whether they were my tears or Ma’s… but after an hour or so of sobbing I took a grip of myself. It hurt. “Ma!” I cried again. “You’re right! Pa may be away with the fairies and the wrong side of the kitchen but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to make him happy – so that’s just what I’m going to do!”
Ma snorted. She rocked to and fro, back and forth, in that old chair of hers, puffing on her pipe. The fragrant smell of Satan’s Finest Gold Blend filled the room. “Ma!” I yelled. “Put that out! You don’t need that!” And then it hit me. It hit me like a meteorite knocking the earth back to the age of the dinosaurs. It hit me like a sack of calf livers dropped from the highest building in the world. What Ma needed, what everyone needed, and what Pa needed most of all, was a simple straightforward route to happiness – one that didn’t need medication or hallucinogens or weird science… or bizarre beliefs or inner circles or a whole load of money and time… just something simple, just something friendly, just something happy… just something nice!
“Ma!” I said, my brain lighting up like a bowl of fruit beneath an impressionist’s brush – “Ma! I know what I’m going to do! It’s obvious! I should have knowd it all along!”
“Oh yes, son? And what’s that?”
“Ma! Ma! I’m going to start MY OWN CULT!”
Ma pulled her pipe from her lips. Her jaw fell. I think I had surprised her for the first time in her life. She looked like a horse that had recently chewed on a wasp.
“I’m going to start a happy cult, Ma! A nice cult! A captivating cult! A cult of happiness and joy! And why should religious folk have all the fun, Ma? With their hymns and their rituals and all their goings-ons and prayers! Ma! I’m going to invent some rituals and hymns and prayers of my own! Rituals and hymns and prayers for everyone. Rituals and hymns and prayers that atheists can do and sing and pray! Rituals and hymns and prayers that agnostics can do and sing and pray! Rituals and hymns and prayers that Christians and Hindus and Muslims and Jews and – and Zoroastrians and Zarathustrians can do and sing and pray! That everyone and anyone can do and sing and pray just to be a little happier! That’s what I’m going to do, Ma! Just you wait and see!”
And my ma’s chair creaked.
Back and forth.
To and fro.
Creak cra-creak creak.
Creak cra-creak creak.
And then I realised that it wasn’t my ma’s chair creaking at all. No. It was my ma laughing… and my ma laughed like a creaking chair for a very long time.
Happiness – the website:
Happiness – the ebook:
(Elsewhere – just try your local Amazon)
Happiness – the t-shirt: