Pour Vivre Heureux, Vivons Caches. Translation? The Proverb States, “To Live Happy, You Must Live In Secret”

Beziers rooftops view

Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own. ~Harold Coffin

Envy is the emotion you feel when you measure yourself up to the idea of what another person may be and you fall short. Not to be mixed up with jealousy which is feeling a sense of loss when someone’s attention is turned away from you.

I don’t permit these feelings to fester for long. Instead I tend to share in my neighbour’s good fortune; even a stranger’s. I am truly content when someone is doing well. Good for them! And why not them! In turn when I win the lotto I would hope people could find it in their hearts to be happy for me too, and not secretly wish I were hit by the next oncoming bus. Just saying…

Today on the town square, drinking with my friend as one does on a Sunday in our little French village, an expression I have never heard before came up.

Pour vivre heureux, vivons caches: To live happy, you must live in secret. It means that somehow my happiness is threatened by too vivid an existence. This may not only apply to the French, as we know many Anglophones who may agree with this old French proverb, especially in light of the direction Facebook and paparazzi have been taking over the last decade.

Now consider my opinion on this saying. One, I do not necessarily relate to or perhaps I don’t understand it completely… but for me being an open book is being myself and in turn it is how I find my own happiness. To know me is to love me?

Anyone who knows me can attest that I am a very outgoing, and a very happy person. I enjoy knowing my fellow villagers and know many by name. I make it my duty to listen to their problems, and to help make things better in anyway I can. It is part of why I volunteer at the town hall.

Being a blogger, and someone who writes about pursuing happiness and a person who shares our daily French life; our message could not be more clear, to live your life in the present moment. Being visible, and sharing your dreams helps others who are wishing to do the same and perhaps and if we are lucky, can even inspire them to follow their own dreams. That would be hard to do while trying to keep it secret worrying about what others might think. Living in the moment does not allow me to fear consequence if someone doesn’t agree with the way I live. I am who I am. I make no apologies.

But the proverb delivers the message that you will have fewer problems if nobody knows what you do, what you have or who you are. Nobody will be jealous, or shocked, or the massive amounts of emotions in between; so you will be free to go on your merry way. In my mind, if someone is jealous, or shocked by me that stems from their own fears or insecurities. It has nothing to do with me. And freedom, true freedom is to have the ability to express oneself in whichever way we desire.

Knowing this tiny tidbit of information about the French has enabled me to decipher a code. I could not understand why, when French mothers came to drop their kids off for a playdate with my children for the first time, they do not want to take a tour of our house or come inside for a coffee. Now I know that the thought of me taking that same tour makes their palms sweat, and they probably have no idea why. I wonder is it is historical and rooted deep within their psyches. It is not like I would find their dog digging up unidentifiable bone in the backyard or there are open bottles of vodka on the tables. Of course not! It is about their level of privacy, and them keeping their life under wraps. This is the way it has always been done.

Once again this goes back to the history behind the high, thick fences surrounding their homes in France. When back in the day the taxman would peek over their fence to determine how much money they will owe. Over the centuries the French got smart to the taxman, and the fences became higher and more difficult to climb. Some even had areas that looked like poverty stricken abodes easily visible if peeking over the gate, while behind this area was a secret garden paradise for only them to enjoy. This outlook has instilled in them a sense of fear, and although the taxman doesn’t look in on their houses any longer, the need for privacy remains.

My argument is that if you live your life in secret, happy or not, you will miss opportunities. The majority of chances that come from being open and discussing life’s options would be lost. The prospects that mysteriously show up by the natural law of attraction, those which open up the paths to happiness before us, are nowhere to be found, or are they also hidden behind closed doors, in someone else’s life?

Envy is ignorance. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson … and I personally find it crippling.

Is there a price to pay for living in fear that someone might take it away? To close yourself off from the possibility of growth that comes from meeting new people with new points of view and new ideas, maybe it seems safe to plug away at a job for life, buy the house with a secret garden, and build that high fence to live safely out of danger’s way.

Or is open living, viewed as bragging. Then humble living would equal modesty. Except they are not living humbly they are living extravagantly behind closed doors. Is there an element of dishonesty in that?  Humble would be living below your means to feel equal, not just seem equal.

  1. The quality or state of being unassuming in the estimation of one’s abilities. “with typical modesty he insisted on sharing the credit with others”

    2. The quality of being relatively moderate, limited, or small in amount, rate, or level.

    “the modesty of his political aspirations

Hearing stories of two people living in the same village on the same little street for 20-years but have never met makes me wonder…

Are the fences too high? 

The Etymology behind the saying comes from the last line and moral of the fable called “The cricket” by Florian, where a cricket compares his fate to that of a beautiful butterfly parading in the air: “For Mother Nature gave her everything and nothing for me.”  But when he sees the children continue after the butterfly and they “tear the poor beast”, the cricket changes her mind: “Oh! Oh!”  Said the cricket, “I’m not angry, it costs too much to shine in the world. ”

I say Butterfly, shine you must!


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