Words on Happiness

Every once in awhile, I’ll stumble on an article that I can’t get out of my head. This piece on happiness is one of them– I wish I had written it, wish I had been able to articulate my thoughts with such eloquent, non-cloying clarity, but someone else did it for me, and that’s second best.

Happiness has been on my mind. The idea of happiness, how it manifests itself. Recently, I keep coming back to the same thought: I can have moments of unhappiness, of feeling dreadfully down, but somehow still be happy.

Shriver writes: “The inert vision of happiness – as a location, a veritably geographic end point, a private promised land that you attain, maintain, and defend – is the real enemy here. This hazy impression we tend to generate of an island resort where we wiggle our toes in the pool and sip pina coladas – what is there to do, amid such suffocating repose?”

Rather than happiness being a place, Shriver associates happiness with “energy, with direction, with being interested – whether that’s interest in figuring out what happens next in chapter 12, in reading an article about conflicting research on the economic effects of immigration, or in deciding how much to increase the allspice in a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe.”

And here’s where I think she really nailed it:

“A passive, static version of happiness,” she writes, “one that puts the statement “I am happy” on a par with “I am in France” – implicitly casts the contented as smug, placid and self-congratulatory. They don’t do anything or go anywhere, since they’re already where everyone else wants to be. So if happiness is a place, a little club that admits a select few, then its members are unbearable, with spreading bald spots from patting themselves on the head.”

I keep returning to this idea again and again. “If you’re really happy,” Shriver concludes, “you’re probably thinking about something else.”

Read the full article here.

Photo by Yossy Arefi 

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