## The Algebra of Joy

Back in high school I used to love algebra. Using equations to find the missing value was like solving word puzzles or figuring out whodunnit in the mystery novels I loved to read. Was the culprit the mysterious “X” or maybe “Y”?

However, contrary to what my teachers insisted, I haven’t used algebra much outside of math classes in all the years since.

Lying in bed in the dark for a few moments this morning, just letting my mind wander before starting my day, I began to think about algebra (yes, really) and it struck me that in many aspects of life we find ourselves looking for the missing “X factor” necessary to achieve our goals.

Sometimes that factor turns out to be inspiration, enthusiasm or opportunity. More often than we might like, what is missing is simply hard work, but whatever it is, once we identify it and apply it we are moved closer to success in our endeavor.

A common problem many people are facing today could be expressed algebraically by the equation H=M*X, where H stands for Happiness, M stands for Me and X is the unknown factor that completes the formula. With only one unknown, this is a very simple equation, so why are so many people unable to solve it?

It occurred to me in my predawn musings that maybe there is a fundamental flaw in the equation. I think the correct formula might be H=M*Y, instead, where the unknown quantity is Y, for You.

If our efforts to solve the problem of happiness are focused on ourselves we can place any value on X and still miss the solution.

When we begin to try to find our happiness by service to others, suddenly the riddle resolves itself.

The true X factor in life is found in Matthew 22: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’