A friend and were talking this week about how the evidence seems to build all the time that — truly, as the Dalai Lama has said again and again — becoming a happier person is the best gift you can offer the world.

She was talking about her father, who has spent his life in misery and anger, and whose darkness spreads "like an oil" across the whole family, the whole neighborhood, everything he touches.

Because everything is contagious between humans (viruses, moods, beliefs), anger and misery are, of course, deeply contagious. On the flip side, though, your own happiness can also a gift to others. If you bring the light, others will be lightened.

I remember when I was going through my own darkest, oily days, and I would often sit on the subway in NYC and weep — and I remember thinking, "My god, like these exhausted commuters don't have enough to cope with; they have to watch this girl sobbing with snot running down her face?" I feel nothing but compassion for that girl I used to be, with the snot running down my face…but I am capable of bringing a brighter light and energy to the world, now that I have made my own life a better place.

In this culture, with its grim hangover of Puritanism, Calvinism and German Romanticism — where often only suffering is trusted — we are often told that it is selfish to do anything that makes ourselves happy. I disagree. I believe it is a community service to figure out what in this world will elevate you….so that you, in turn, can elevate the world.

With all my love,

via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall