Should happiness be the focus of one’s life, or something deeper?
Tom Catena, a doctor for 14 years in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan — a desolate, rebel-held area that was bombed repeatedly from 2011 until 2018 by the Khartoum government when Omar al-Bashir was president — may have the answer.
Catena has been the subject of a documentary film, a winner of the Aurora Prize, and profiled by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times.
In a recent WhatsApp call, he made an important distinction between happiness and joy: Happiness is an emotion that changes from hour to hour and day to day. Joy is more deeply rooted. It comes from living a purposeful life; in his case, following a religious calling.
Catena said some days he is ecstatic. But most weeks, he is working 24/7, confronting challenge after challenge, performing 2,000 surgeries a year and dealing with 130,000 patients, since his hospital serves a catchment area of over 750,000 people.