“Rules for a Happy Life,” by Charles Murray, Wall Street Journal, 3/29/2014
1. Consider marrying young. All else being equal, marrying young has its advantages. You are both there at the startup of the long process of building a family and can share those early memories of when everything was still up in the air. The entire process is shared by both of you. A marriage later in life with careers and much else already settled can be more like a merger of corporations than a marriage.
2. Learn How to Recognize Your Soul Mate. This is the part that caught my eye, and I’ll come back to it. For now, it’s basically about compatibility and realizing that what you see now is the way it’s going to be. Personality traits don’t change. If anything, they get worse.
3. Eventually Stop Fretting About Fame and Fortune. It is good to be ambitious but too much of a good thing can be disastrous. For me, it is only an academic question. Anyone who writes a free blog cannot be overly ambitious.
4. Take Religion Seriously. Murray tells us to skip this one if we are already engaged in a religious tradition of some sort, not necessarily a recognized major religion but one that requires some study and thought. I am, I did, so I have no idea what this is about.
5. Watch “Groundhog Day” Repeatedly. This was the Bill Murray movie that did not produce the epiphany in me that it did for author Murray (no relation, I assume). In the movie, the character played by Bill Murray relives the same day over and over again, and is transformed from a jerk to a decent human being in the process. I’ll be sure to watch it again when it comes on, but more carefully this time. (Note, 7/2015: I did, and agree it deserves rewatching. It is much more philosophical than I realized.)
Now, about recognizing your soul mate. Of course, you want someone with similar tastes and preferences, but not all are equally important. The top three biggies, Murray tells us, are: Punctuality, Orderliness, and Thriftiness. Where you are on the sliding scale for each does not matter—the important thing is to be together on them. If you are a spendthrift slob who is always late, seek out another spendthrift slob who is always late. Any couples who are not together on these three will both live one long life of screeching fingernails on a blackboard. Opposites may attract, but should not marry.