Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ordinary Happiness

It's a rainy day around here today so what's up with the positive posts? I dunno, that's just the way it works around here sometimes, so let's just go with it.

If you're gloomy because of the day, I'm sorry, but maybe this book review of Ordinary Happiness will cheer you up:
The American expectation of happiness was already in the air when Thomas Jefferson wrote it into the Declaration of Independence -- George Mason had proclaimed in Virginia's Declaration of Rights that citizens were entitled to the means of "pursuing and obtaining happiness." But it was Jefferson who got it right. His version guarantees only the pursuit.

And to judge by most books you'd think no one ever catches hold of the prize. The self-help manuals that lay claim to the most vigorous interest in happiness are generally written for people who haven't managed to make themselves very happy. The stratagems of such books turn pleasure into a chore. And literary writers are more inclined to the misery suffered by characters whose pursuit has already hit a dead end. Tolstoy's remark about happy families -- that they're all alike and for that reason presumably uninteresting -- set the tone for literary thinking on the topic.

None of this is lost on Willard Spiegelman, a literary critic and English professor at Southern Methodist University (and a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal's Leisure & Arts pages). As he writes in "Seven Pleasures," a jovial collection of essays: "Happiness has received less respect and less serious attention than melancholy, its traditional opposite."
No need to wait for the big things to happen in our lives for us to be happy. There are too many little things to be happy about.

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