[lit-ideas] Re: Happiness or Meaning?

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 18 Sep 2008 18:03:14 -0700

What I was trying to suggest is that the works I cited simplify into equations what cannot and should not be so simplified. They do this in order to make sentences engaging. I wrote, "Fiddle with the formula and you have a sentence that plays." "Plays," rather than, "is true."

John persists, asking whether there is truth in the phrasing he quotes, and suggesting that we've never grown out of Romantic notions that suffering and meaning go hand in hand, and that happiness is an empty or lite state. I have argued before, on this list I think, that happiness is the least well-examined subject in art. We have lots and lots of art that takes misery and darkness on, and finds meaning in suffering. We have very little art that shows us how complex our notions of happiness are.

I think happiness is a very difficult subject. That's why I tried to write a novel about it. I also tried a seminar on the history of happiness. And I've been wondering about the subject in paintings. I've no great success to report. Angry brush strokes are easy; "happy, happy trees" easier yet. Maybe somewhere between Sam Francis and Rothko, there's a way forward?

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

On Fri, Sep 19, 2008 at 2:24 AM, David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

To me the binary opposition of happiness and meaning to which Rubenfeld, via his protagonist, directs our attention signals a kind of dark romanticism in which meaning is associated with frustration, disappointment, pain, alienation and ultimately tragedy, while happy lives are, ipso facto, meaningless.

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