Happiness is…

” …he was discovering happiness in the present.
When he sat reading in the library or playing Mozart in the music-room, he often felt the invasion of a deep spiritual emotion, as if Shangri-La were indeed a living essence, distilled from the magic of the ages and miraculously preserved against time…”
From “Lost Horizon” by James Hilton,
English Novelist 1900-1954

Book cover

Dust Jacket from the first edition. Via Wikipedia

Have you read this classic? It was a must when I was growing up.  The Second World War was just over and we wanted to believe there was a Shangri-La aka Utopia.  Perhaps we thought one would even be the outcome of the peace between the nations.

The book tells the story of a disenchanted member of the British diplomatic service stationed in Afghanistan.  To escape a revolution the white residents of Baskul are being evacuated to Peshawar, Pakistan but the plane is hijacked and Conway, the diplomat and his 3 companions disappear.  The plane crash lands, the pilot is killed and the four passengers seek shelter at a monastery named Shangri-La high up in the mountains of Tibet.

The book was published in 1933 so some of the prose is archaic outdated but it is well worth reading.  It caught the imagination of the populace and in fact, Camp David, the presidential hideaway, was originally called Shangri-La by US President Franklin D Roosevelt.

So what does Shangri-La mean to you?

  • Do you seek a peaceful and unhurried place to live out your life?
  • Do you want a serene environment with a place for everything and everything in it’s place?
  • Do you want to be surrounded by good friends who support you and who you can support in turn?
  • Do you want a world without war and aggression?

Some of these things are within our ability to achieve, if not 100% then pretty close to it.  Remember Lord Marks of Marks and Spencer fame said “The cost of perfection is too great.  Close enough is good enough.”  Imagine how you would feel if you could invent your own Shangri-La even if it was only 90/95% perfect.

  • We can slow down the pace of our lives.  We can determine how much we want to do (notwithstanding the fact that most of us have to work to live).  Do we have to be so involved in the myriad of things we have chosen.  Remember to slow down and smell the roses!
  • We can achieve a serene environment by de-cluttering (is there such a word) our home and office and getting rid of all the extraneous baggage that we have accumulated over the years.  If you haven’t used it or worn it in the past six months, chances are you never will.
  • We can reach out to friends offering our support and accepting their support in return.  If we surround ourselves with like minded people there is no room for the toxic folk who try to invade our lives and minds.
  • A world without war and aggression is not so easy to accomplish but let’s start in a small way.  Let’s try really hard not to react aggressively when confronted with something or somebody we don’t like.

I would love to hear your take on Lost Horizon and of course your thoughts on Shangri-La and how to achieve your own Utopia.

PS – I once stayed at a hotel called  Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort in Penang, Malaysia.  And it lived up to it’s name in all respects.

18 responses to “Happiness is…

  1. Thanks for a great post. Yes, I’d go for a 90% perfect Shangri-La any day!


  2. what great insight and advice you have for us here. Oh, and Lost Horizon? wow, that brought back memories of the great books I’ve read over the years.


  3. Good thoughts. And, as we are bombarded more and more by the forces of mayhem in our world, this inner serenity becomes ever more important.


  4. jacquelincangro

    I’ve never read the book, but I have seen the movie made based on it. I found it so moving, I even worked it into my novel. For me, the takeaway was that you don’t have to go to a special place to experience Shangri-La. It can be wherever you are.


  5. i know shangri-la but don’t really know the meaning… but now i know and it has a very good meaning

    thank you for sharing this



  6. I’ve never read the book. I have the attention span of a gnat nowadays. But I was at the symphony this weekend and they were playing Debussy’s La Mer and I felt a bit of what Hilton described; of Shangri-La being real, and attainable, and inside us.


    • Hi Peg – Gnats Unite! I am glad you had those feelings when you listened to La Mer. Isn’t music wonderful the way it can transport us to another time or place. I like to think Shangri-La is real and attainable.


  7. I’m not familiar with the book, but it looks like I’m going to have a lot of reading to do this winter! I love the almost-melodic excerpt you posted from it. I like that in a book. Learning to be content wherever I find myself, I think that is a type of Shangri-La. De-cluttering, a word or not, is something that I need to do…again, and see if what survived the last episode remains. 🙂


    • it’s great as the nights draw in to have a book that also draws us in. I find that this is one of those. Enjoy the winter months and of course your de-cluttering . 🙂


  8. A happy and peaceful life is my shangri-la. Lovely thoughts, Judith.


  9. Such a peaceful lovely post..even reading your words makes me calm….!


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