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Put It in the Ground Where the Flowers Grow

 

20130726-twinkies-whole-cross-section-primary

There was a review of Philip Roth’s new collection of essays in the NYTBR over the weekend. It quoted Roth as saying something to effect that he was lucky because he didn’t care about happiness. First reaction: brilliant. Second reaction: DB. But I keep thinking about it. Does an artist care about happiness? Or more to the point, does caring about happiness diminish or embellish your ability to work? What is happiness, beyond Twinkies and sordid sexual encounters? Is caring about happiness related to caring about what other people think? Is happiness even a thing?

Do you care about happiness?

20 Responses

  1. happiness is never having to think about it (do you recall all the moments in your life that were bad, but not the good bits? That’s what this means – for me).

  2. Of course I care about happiness.

    I’ve always been obsessed with sadness, of course, for as long as I can remember. The exquisite beauty of that pain, the aliveness of it, the truth. Oh let me count the fucking ways!

    I really can’t say whether the magnificence of sadness is because the worse it is, the better those moments of happiness are by comparison, or the opposite. (Both opposites, if you can be bothered getting your head around that.)

    But happiness is wonderful. I experience it most days now, even if I’m only aware of it in moments — not sure why I feel guilty saying that, but I do. Perhaps it’s because it feels like I’ve cheated on my true love, sadness.

    Anyway, they’re both beautiful, because neither are present when the depression monster grindy takey destroyey thingy is around, and the full experience of either is something I’m very grateful for. The feeling of aliveness. (Well now I’m just repeating myself. Better and Best Word Writing People, come save me. You know who you are — actually, some of you sorta don’t. Which makes me sad. But I do, which makes me happy. I feel kinda guilty about that too, but that’s another circle entirely.)

    PS: If you just thought, “Might he have meant me?” you were right, I did. And even if I didn’t, your words are saving SOMEONE, or will, I promise. So whether you care about happiness or not, at least allow yourself some. You’ve earned it, you mad writey fucker!

  3. I’ve learned to avoid happiness, but aim for contentment.

  4. Happiness?
    Sometimes-happy is the bubbly feeling of joy and excitement, the expectation of success, lottery ticket winnings imagined, the baby born perfect, the job and the proposal accepted, the journey of a lifetime started. All of that and more is the “happy” part.

    White knuckling the sustainability of sometimes-happy is the “ness” part.

    I’ve had happy and I’ve had sad, happy is better.
    Ness I strive for.

  5. Whew.

    I do not presume to know about others; I’ve got plenty to do right here and now. For me, caring much about anything but the work takes away from it in those moments of work. The work is where Feelings and Intellect meet, and maybe get lucky.

    I’m not sure what happiness is, but I know it when I feel it, and well, I like it. She seems to be a result of other stuff, and drops in at all hours, then leaves as suddenly. Sometimes I’m sure I’ll never see her again, but, like other things, I’m mistaken.

    I adore Happiness, but she’s a flirt, Care much about her, and her brother, Pain, will show up. He’s a prick. A bully, too, who will kick your ass just because.

    Don’t tell H, but like Karen, I have a thing for Contentment.

    I have no expectation of happiness or contentment, and certainly no sense of entitlement. Pain, stink, and bullshit share our space, obnoxious kin that stay too long. They’ll drink all the good stuff, ravage the pantry, leave your place a mess and you a shambles. If they leave, you just know they’ll be back.

    Try not to answer the door.

  6. I do. I don’t think it’s related as much to what other people are thinking as to what they are feeling. I’m talking about those close to me, their happiness is very important to me. I’ve had bouts of depression and one thing I can say is the words “I know how you feel.” are bullshit; my own sadness doesn’t mean I can identify depression in others. So I only hope my loved ones are sincere when they say they are happy.
    And I’ve been happy, too. I don’t trust it.
    More often than not, I write about sadness, but if you ever met me, you’d have a hard time believing a bumpkin with a goofy grin could write about so much death and depression.
    But fuck that — Happiness comes and goes. This morning on my walk I ate some of the last remaining blackberries. They were plump and juicy, cooled and coated with September morning dew. A beautiful, foggy morning was getting better. Then I came to work and saw today’s newspaper. A hiker who had been missing since Labor Day was found dead in the woods. He was ill prepared and made some bad choices; never will he taste fresh berries again.

    • Sad reality awakening, Mike. You so touchingly express it. Reminds me, though, of Galway Kinnell’s poem, Blackberry Eating, which begins:

      I love to go out in late September
      among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
      to eat blackberries for breakfast…

  7. I’ve always been aware that the next challenge, trial or catastrophe is just around the corner, so when I have a calm or boring day, I guess I’m happy.

    Twinkies used to make me happy but now they make my teeth hurt. But a Burger King Whopper. . . now that’s some bad girl happiness.

  8. now that we don’t have to fight off wooly mammoths and saber toothed tigers, we owe it to ourselves to try out happiness for a wild. now that our very existence on this earth is not a daily traumatic experience, why not? the world does not need another long face. get out of the way if you mope or don’t bring good energy. you can be happy, choose it, try it! its totally more fun to be happy. if you don’t care about happiness, you’ve killed off your inner child and thats no fun at all. what a drag.
    if you die sad, you go to hell, if you die happy you go to heaven.

    • If a happy mouse died and went to heaven would he still be happy when he saw the grinning cat?
      And did you know you can purchase small wooly mammoth tusk chips in the shape of guitar nuts (not guitar testicles, but the little slotted piece the strings rest in at the top of the fret board)? Anything for a buck. Who would have thunk it? Certainly not the ancient wooly mammoth.

  9. I’m going for the whole spread.

    “Does an artist care about happiness? Or more to the point, does caring about happiness diminish or embellish your ability to work? What is happiness, beyond Twinkies and sordid sexual encounters? Is caring about happiness related to caring about what other people think? Is happiness even a thing? Do you care about happiness?”

    I don’t know what an artist cares about. In the context of this question, I prefer to be more specific, to wit: Does this artist care about happiness? Does that? And whose? And what is it, this happiness? Is it such a thing that any person can deny caring about it and be telling the truth?

    Maybe caring about happiness — yours or anyone else’s — is like trying to see a sixth-magnitude star in the night sky: the harder you try, the more elusive it is, and so to see it, you must look to one side of it (doesn’t matter much which side, depending on what else is around). Doing your work well may have a positive effect on your happiness. Try it and see. If it doesn’t, try some different work. If nothing works, write me into your will and go away.

    Twinkies haven’t done much for me since I was in my teens, though lemme tell ya, Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston has an almond croissant to celebrate. And there was a place on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, called Gideon’s, that had the best baked everythings, but sadly has closed down (age, I think, despatched its bakers). As for sordid sexual encounters, I tried to avoid those, though they did happen; however, there were some unsordid such encounters I still cherish memory of, so I know they brought at least one person some happiness. Anyway, that was all in the past. Now I wear my trousers rolled, and walk along the beach. I can hear the mermaids screaming, screech for screech. I do not think they scream for me
    I do not think they scream for me
    I know they don’t
    I know they don’t
    I know that they don’t
    scream for me.

    Is caring about happiness related to caring about what other people think? That’s an interesting thought. It’s never occurred to me before. I think it is, probably, for most people. And for most of us, I’m willing to bet we don’t see or consider the connection (and I only bet on sure things; the payoffs are lower, but I always have enough to catch the bus).

    Yes, happiness is a thing. Sometimes it has feathers. This doesn’t mean you can touch it, even if you can touch the feathers.

    Yes, dammit, I care about happiness. Yours, mine, everyone’s. I have striven not to, and upon occasion succeeded, but never for long, as I am mired in the tar pit of fears and desires, sometimes feathered, sometimes not.

  10. Wow. We are waxing metaphysical here. To answer the question – Do I care about happiness? – one must first define it. There is a preponderance of answers, and no single answer. There is a cornucopia filled with happiness truths and realities, and some decaying fruit as well.

    Clap your hands if you believe that happiness is the truth…

    The thing is, it’s different for all of us at different times in our lives. And perhaps it’s related to disposition. And maybe it’s genetic. And sometimes it’s circumstantial. And occasionally happiness is serendipitous, though not often enough. And possibly it’s learned. And I’ll go out on a limb and say its a choice. It could be chemical. And it’s certainly related to health. And riches don’t hurt. Can’t count out love.

    Don’t worry. Be happy.

    But what truly is pertinent here is whether or not an artist must suffer to create. Does an artist have to plummet to the depths in order to empathize, or have compassion, or connect?

    Therefore that he may raise, the Lord throws down.

    I don’t go around thinking about being happy consciously. But one sure knows when one is not. We all just live our lives, mudding through each day. We live on a tightwire-spectrum of emotions that make us human. Happiness, sadness, joy, grief, indifference, satisfaction, contentment, depression, elation. Gratitude helps stay on the balancing beam.

    The poet like an acrobat.

    • And by the way, fuck what other people think. You grow up when you stop caring about what other people think. (I’m not talking about loved ones. That’s a whole complicated realm of its own.) And Philip Roth was being defensive, methinks.

  11. Just the pursuit.🤔🙄

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  12. Intriguing comparison of happiness to twinkies and sordid sexual encounters. There’s much to riff on that thought and THAT makes me happy.

    What does “DB” mean?

    signed Clueless Twinkie Loving Canuck

  13. I like money

    • That was a little flippant. But this is the question of every tongue that speaks. Every argument. Every question worth an argument. At the heart of it all. In short, I don’t know.

  14. I don’t trust happiness. It’s too fleeting. Sadness, on the other hand, is always reliable.

  15. Also, I don’t trust anything that Philip Roth says outside of his fiction. He’s given too many conflicting stories and too many obvious self-serving statements to be trusted. Still, wish I had her verbal brilliance!

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