Happy. What does it mean? Is it a thing, a phenomenon unto itself, or merely a lack of sadness, like cold is a lack of heat? If humans had a default setting, would it be joy, despair, or ambivalence?
I’ve been wondering about this because I’ve been happy. Not the kind that pops up in spurts, on special occasions, but the kind that infuses most moments of the day with a sense of well being. I notice that I bothered to put a liner in the bathroom garbage can (confession: I usually don’t), and I feel a sense of rightness about the world.
Of course my life overflows with reasons to be happy. If you’re reading this, then yours probably does too. You’re fortunate enough to have access to the internet and a computer, and you have time enough to read odd and irrelevant musings like mine. Most of us have our own personal tragedies, but when I think of people living in abject poverty or life-threatening danger or abuse, I have to acknowledge that I am lu-cky.
Although we may acknowledge our luck, it doesn’t generally translate into feeling happy. More often it makes us feel guilty, since we’re worn down or anxious in our fortunate lives. I have certainly been there in the past and will certainly be there again. But for now, I’m immersed in a curious sensation and want to examine it.
I pose these questions to you as well as to myself. Does a person have to be unhappy to be interesting? Is it possible to be happy if you’re intelligent, educated, and informed about the sorry state this world? Is happiness self-perpetuating the way sadness is? Is it its own form of madness (after all, a trash can liner . . . )? And a final question that I am personally invested in: can a happy writer write well?
I’ll report on my findings as this happiness thing plays out.