There is a wonderful old movie that, thanks to streaming video services, is no longer lost in a vault somewhere and beyond our ability to enjoy. “Darby O’Gill and The Little People” is a 1959 Disney movie starring Albert Sharpe as the title character, and among the amazing supporting cast is none other than a very young Sean Connery.
The movie centers around Darby and his daughter, who are caretakers for a manor lord, and Darby’s ongoing quest to capture King Brian of the Leprechauns. It is an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable movie that is suitable for the entire family.
Darby does in fact capture the King of the Leprechauns, though as the story plays out you get the impression that King Brian is less a captive than he is merely allowing Darby to think so while enjoying his company. And woven in among all the humor is a scene that is quite descriptive how people jump to conclusions about what they truly need and what they believe will make them happy. Darby is in a pub with his magical “captive” stuck in a large sack such as hunters use to hold game. He has told everyone that he has captured King Brian, and that he is contemplating the three wishes which are now his due.
Being his friends and attempting to be helpful, the pub patrons start offering wish ideas to Darby.
“Wish for a big, fine house,” one patron says.
“But if you wish for the house you would have to wish for the money to take care of the house,” Darby replies. “Or else you’ll have a house as big as a church, and you the poorest church mouse in it.”
Sage counsel from the man who had no doubt spent all those decades considering wishes as he chased King Brian across the landscape.
“Wish to be happy, Darby,” another helpful patron offers. To this seemingly excellent idea, Darby replies, in his wonderful accent, that “Me father said the only person altogether happy was the Village Idiot.”
This is met with appreciative nods at the old man’s wisdom and sagacity. Several other good ideas are offered, all of which Darby counters in similar well-considered fashion. But, as the story goes, wise old Darby actually wastes one of his wishes unintentionally while considering how to not do that very thing. And all the while King Brian (played to full impish effect by Jimmy O’Dea) is smiling and acting decidedly un-prisoner like.
I think, at the end of the day, most of us are a lot like Darby O’Gill. Darby isn’t an unhappy person, but he has fixated upon the fact that if his wishes (keep in mind, he has not actually decided on any specific ones) were to suddenly come true then his life would somehow become much better. And it is only through his interaction with King Brian that he realizes that it was in fact the chasing — not the capturing — that helped give his life added meaning. He was in fact living a wonderful life (but that’s a different movie entirely) while he was waiting for his life to get better. Fortunately — and something of a spoiler — it all works out in the end for everyone involved.
Our lives and our health, both physical and mental, follow this pattern closely. We strive for things in our lives and make goals to achieve what we believe is our perfect and ideal life. This is an excellent place to start because it gives us focus, and focus helps us to achieve the desired end.
We can’t get there unless we start, after all, and knowing where we intend to go helps ensure we will get there ... if only eventually. But in the meantime, there is a lot of benefit and enjoyment to be had along the way. And we can achieve many of our dreams while we are moving toward our “wishes.” Who knows; if we pay attention, the dreams might work out better for us anyway.
Of course, it helps to realize that “happy” is more a mood than a mental state, and physical health is something you “do” every day. We might wish to lose weight, for instance, but our body is running the mechanics of metabolism every moment of every day regardless of how the scale responds. And it is both impractical and unfair to ourselves to discount where we are on the journey at any given moment. Simply because we don’t seem to be “happy” all of the time as others might describe it does not mean we are unhappy. And how we might feel physically today upon our journey to a weight loss goal is far more important than any “helpful” advice the scale might have to offer.
And catching the leprechaun might not be exactly what we thought it would be anyway. Goals are truly wonderful and necessary things, but they have to evolve as our needs change because life itself can change quicker than a wink from old King Brian. Fortunately, no wishes are necessary. We just need to remember that the journey or the “chase” teaches us far more than the “catching” does. And we should appreciate the good in our lives and ourselves while striving to be and do better.