11 June 2007

Happiness Is Wood

Fig 1: A cross-section of old growth happiness. In the future,
we may be able to practice sustainable happiness practices, and
not rely solely on harvesting irreplaceable old growth stands.
(You said "practice practices". Idiot. -Ed.)


I had another realization about happiness (You don't say. -Ed.), and its relationship with other emotions and I thought I'd pass it along.

While doing my "three things" exercise, I suddenly realized that one of the three things that made me happy that day was writing down my three things. That seems like a paradox, but I'm perfectly okay with that. It's as though practicing happiness begets more happiness. That's kind of a "duh" realization, I know. But you'd think there would be a diminishing return in that control structure somewhere. (E.g., in psuedocode it might read like: "practicing happiness will make you happy UNLESS OR UNTIL some douchebag comes along and fucks up your day. CASE NEXT: Continue practicing. CASE ELSE: beat aforementioned douchebag soundly about the head and shoulders.") As a point of logic, though, it seems that if you practiced happiness regularly and without interruption, you would create a perpetual state of mental well-being that was unshakeable.

From my experience, it seems that's possible, but looking at my day-to-day emotional life, I know that's not the case. Not yet, anyway. For instance, last night we were getting ready to go out the door to the theater ("West Side Story" at the 5th Ave - not a bad show as it turned out), and I couldn't find the tickets. Did I undertake a serene mental recapitulation of my actions in order to recall where the tickets might be? As the French say, "Oh FUCK NO!" I ran around the house ripping stuff out of drawers and turning pockets inside out while hurling epithets and verbal assaults on everything and everyone including but not limited to mine own creator. I was on the verge of giving the dog a cavity search when lo, the tickets didst appear to me, verily in the spot where I left them. But where was my happiness then? Where was that unshakeable feeling of "everything's going to be okay"? I should've probably turned the house upside down looking for that instead of the tickets. As it was, once I had the tickets were in hand, I was instantly ashamed of how I had acted.

Maybe all of that is fodder for practice, too. As I said in my last letter, dealing with frustration seems to be the next big challenge in this whole quest-for-happiness thing. And in trying to ameliorate anger and frustration in order to gain happiness, I've come to realize that anger and happiness are not opposites. Not that practicing happiness doesn't go a long way as a prophylaxis against anger and discontent. It does. But it's like comparing apples and horse apples. They're completely different. (Glad you pointed that out. After the last time we had lunch, I was beginning to wonder if you knew the difference. -Ed.) I'll save the whole point-by-point explanation of exactly how they are different for another letter. Just suffice it to say for now that the only thing they share in common is the rubric of emotion, and that's where the similarity ends.

Anyway, getting back to the paradox (or tautology, if you will) that practicing happiness is a way to be happy. The fact that writing my three things is one of the things that makes me happy reminds me of that old saying about how wood warms you three times: once when you cut it, once when you split it, and once when you burn it. Likewise, happiness warms you three times: once when it happens, once when you recall it (like when you do the "three things" exercise), and once when you share it. That doesn't roll out quite as smoothly as the thing about wood, but you get my drift.

I tried explaining all of that to Teresa this morning. She waggishly replied with, "So happiness is wood." This only led to a back-and-forth exchange of very naughty puns, each more titillating than the last, and none of which are fit to reprint here. But just let me say this. While wood by itself may not be happiness, it can be a very important ingredient of happiness in consensual relationships between mature adults. Ahem. (A phrase containing the terms "spank" and "plank" also comes to mind. -Ed.) (Quiet you. -TRG)

Okay now I'm embarassed.