[lit-ideas] Re: Happiness or Meaning?

  • From: "John McCreery" <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 20 Sep 2008 14:30:03 +0900

On Sat, Sep 20, 2008 at 3:07 AM, David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>wrote:

>> Yes, they do.  And what do they tell us?  That our metaphors concerning
>> happiness are spatial perhaps and that they have changed over time?  A
>> constant is that happiness is associated with what is high, its opposite,
>> with being low; happiness is expansive, it's opposite is restrictive.  But
>> there have been changes.  In the amount of tranquility in that space, for
>> example.  Today the ultimate model of happiness is not eternity spent within
>> a walled garden, or gazing from stadium seating at a very intense light
>> bulb--I'm caricaturing two early visions of heaven.  These notions of a safe
>> lonely or social place, set apart from the world's turmoil have been
>> translated in modern times into fantasies of tropical island escapes.  But
>> what happens when you actually become Gaugin or John Koffend today?  Most
>> people quickly feel "out of touch" with life.  In the latter instance, you
>> write a long letter to your wife, regretting all, and then you kill
>> yourself.  Contemporary concepts of happiness are not generally meditative;
>> people want to be party of a boating party of some sort.  And yet we have
>> this idea that hell is other people, so the people in the party must be
>> stripped to abstractions or colors if the space is to seem generally
>> welcoming.
Intriguing stuff about the changing content of spaces filled with happiness.
You've set me to cataloguing moments when I feel happy to see if I can
discover differences. From the last few days:

1. Finishing a morning's bicycle ride. Partly being pumped up. Yokohama is
hilly, so the ride starts with a downhill zoom then continues with a loop
that requires cycling up a gentle slope. Next comes a portage up a steep
(nearly 45 degree angle) road to the top of the ridge above where we live.
Then its another downhill zoom, with just a bit more up and down until we
zoom down from the road above the apartment complex in which we live into
the parking lot. Pumped up and able to say to ourselves that we've kept to
the exercise program we've started since coming back to Japan from Texas.

2. "It works!" For example, when I've been trying to do a bit of programming
or to learn how to use a new piece of software.

3. Ripping out the yabugarashi, a particularly noxious vine that keeps
trying to take over the garden.

4. "Oh, that tastes good!" as I sample a culinary innovation--especially if
it is something I have just come up with myself, e.g., adding a dab of
spicey mango chutney to a cottage cheese and fruit salad.

5. Boozing it up with a bunch of Japanese movie industry guys who were the
real experts on the jury of the first-stage judging for the short film
festival whose Website I worked on. Real characters, everybody having fun.
Feeling accepted, respected and silly.

6. Dancing in a wild snaking, stomping pattern with a bunch of college kids
from Taiwan costumed to perform Taiwanese aboriginal dances. It's Taiwan
Night at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo. In a burst of nostalgia,
Ruth and I have gone. We've surprised a few people at the next table with
our few remaining phrases of Taiwanese. We are sitting at the end of our
table closest to the dance floor, have imbibed freely of the free Taiwan
beer and  delighted to be dragged onto the floor as the evening ends.

7. Comparing belly buttons with grandson Keegan during a Skype  video call.

8. Curling up and falling asleep with my best friend at the end of the day.

Discovery, acceptance, recognition, letting go, sensuous treats: all things
that make me happy.


John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324

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