Don’t worry; be happy

In his “treatise on human happiness,” deep within the Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas reveals the desire for happiness that is found in the heart of every human soul. It is part of our “hard wiring,” and so outrivals such limiting accidents, as a person’s race, gender, IQ, or creed. Moreover, Saint Thomas thinks that it should not be compromised. For as a lawyer might say, an ambition of complete, rapturous bliss — “is indicated.”

To this, modern medicine has responded with the heart monitor, and other devices to measure everything from caloric intake, to the state of your finances. Indeed, tedious instructions from dieticians make us all into neurotics. I calculate that worrying about cancer, alone, took five years off the average life. And that was before climate change was invented.

Saint Thomas never dieted, so far as I can see. He would, however, observe church fasts. For the best form of dieting is, not to eat. This may be supplemented by not listening to the news. For have you heard? God alone is the answer to our vexatious public questions.

One should not look for happiness only in the pages of the Angelic Doctor, however.

No, you should also consider the works of the Czech composer, Jan Dismas Zelenka, at the court of Dresden (whose horns and whistles were supplied mostly from Bohemia).

Zelenka was just pinged to me, on this infernally modern machine: his Missa Charitatis (in D Major, ZMV 10). It arrived with a reproduction of his autograph score, from 1727 (I think). It gives the text for his thrilling exposition of God’s love and mercy.

The theological point is clinched, in the Benedictus — within an extraordinary conversation, that we may overhear. It is between a soprano and an alto, and two transverse flutes.