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Front cover of the service sheet with The Pursuit of Happiness as the title

The new school year started on Friday 3 September and the whole school assembled outside for the first Whole School Service in over 19 months. This term, we are shining the spotlight on happiness.

Here is the Headmaster's address to the School:

Pupils assemble on the rugby pitches in their school uniform for the start of year assembly

It is wonderful to see you back – resplendent in uniform. Wear it with pride and care.

I am delighted we can come together, albeit outside for our traditional beginning of term assembly.

This morning I have for you a very simple and mercifully short message for what I hope will be an exciting term ahead.

We want this term, this year, to be a success for you. We want you to be the very best version of yourself – in all that you do – to excel in every aspect of school life and enjoy what this wonderful place has to offer.

Ultimately, I want you to be happy, and happiness will be a recurring theme for us across this term.

“Happiness is,” as wise man once said, “the greatest gift that we possess …”

How do we achieve happiness? For Mr Aitchison, “Happiness is Egg Shaped”. For Rev Blair, it is the sunset over the Isle of Jura. For Mr Rowlands, it the mountains. For Dr Cartwright, it is overcoming challenge. For Mr Ogilvie-Jones, it is the beach. For me, I share the view of John F Kennedy who said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasures of riding a bike” – that is how I derive happiness.

It probably will not surprise you to hear that some scientific minds reckon they have come across the key to happiness, and it goes something like this. There are three distinct elements in the pursuit of happiness:

  • The pleasant life
  • The good life
  • The meaningful life

The “pleasant life” is realised through simple pleasures: a walk along the beach, a favourite meal, catching up with friends and family.

Now this is where it gets interesting.

A “good life” is achieved through identifying our unique skills and abilities and putting them to use. Playing a particular sport, playing a musical instrument, creating a piece of art – these contribute to the good life and there are lots of opportunities to follow the good life here at Merchiston.

Finally, the last element of a happy life is a “meaningful life” – using our talents and energy in the service of others, being a good friend, a kind person or willing volunteer.

Looking at happiness in this way essentially sets out what we want you to be and Merchiston is just the environment:

  • You can enjoy those simple pleasures of a pleasant life, eg friendship;
  • You can lead a good life by doing the very best with the talents you have and by getting involved;
  • And a meaningful life will come from supporting those around you, and helping where you can to make others’ lives easier.

So, the pursuit of happiness

The Pleasant Life
Enjoy every minute and do not take those simple pleasures for granted.

The Good Life
Put your talents and abilities to good use. Do not miss the opportunity to perform at the very best of your abilities – stretch yourself.

The Meaningful Life
Be an active, but kind member of this wonderful community. You can play your part in making others happy.

Jonathan Anderson, Headmaster