Monday Night Musings

Monday Musings, ramblings and wandering all over the place.

A few days ago I finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Eat Pray Love” – I was reading it along with the rest of the world. Her book has been on the best seller list for quite some time and certainly has been pushed along by Oprah’s endorsement.

But we don’t need another review here, it’s an excellent book and I find many pages of mine dog eared – words to remember, thoughts to live by and reflect on.

What startled me was my response to the book. Eat Pray Love is divided into three sections, or journeys. The author travels through Italy, India and Bali. Italy was about sensual pleasure (at least in the form of food), India was about devotion and denial, and in Bali she finally finds happiness, love and has a lot of sex.

What startled me was my response to the last section of the book, I was bored (and not just with all the heterosexual lovemaking). And I wonder if others had the same response to her book. Or am I just grossly cynical.

Are we more informed through pain and struggle and not through happiness and contentment? Why are we drawn to the drama of suffering? Artists, writers express our anguish – and we greedily consume that which expresses the painful, the dramatic, the human struggle.

And do we, do I, carry this into our own lives? Are struggles and unhappiness more dramatic and interesting, then being happy? Perhaps, or perhaps before I reached this state of mid-life clarity. Which I maintain most of the time and even without prozac.

I ran a search on Google and it might illustrate the point I am trying to make. I Googled “how to be happy” and got 22,800,000 hits. Mind boggling and impressive but Google “depressed” and you’ll get 103,000.000 – so it appears depression has an edge over how to be happy. So I cast a wider net and entered “happiness” that faired a bit better with 72,900,000.

But clearly the winner on Google was depression. We are writing more about depression then we are about happiness. On how to be happy there were articles on achieving happiness by being rationale – I am skeptical about this approach in a nation where our political candidates are talking to God and recommending people with Aids be segregated from a larger society. My rationality is not making me happy. Another site recommends self awareness as a path to happiness – perhaps, that seems rational. But then I am aware that I am 45, am not a millionaire, and that my body is being grossly affected by gravity – eerrgh are we sure denial is not the truer path to happiness? At least botox?! Then there is the “expression of love” as a path to happiness. I like that, wish I could get some.

(temporary thud as I fall on the floor in a pool of sadness)

There …she’s back.

Amy Steinberg
is a terrific indie singer/songwriter. I first heard her perform at the Women In The Arts Festival In East Lansing. She is a performer one must see – she wrote and performed a great song called “Let’s Make Love”. A few terrific lines of the song are …
Hate is so reliable, so undeniable. I say I hate you and how easily you take that to be true, I say I love you and you can’t believe it, I’m deceiving, being fake and that is a mistake.

I am going to go with Mary Oliver and her poem “Poppies” as tonight’s definitive statement on happiness –


The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats about everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curving blade
from hooking forward-
of course
loss is a great lesson.

But also I say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight-

and what are you going to do-
what can you do
about it-
deep, blue night?

So friends in this season of long shadows, remember that light is an invitation to happiness, and happiness done right is a kind of holiness.

The world needs your light, not your suffering. Happy is what you are, not a set of stuff that you get under the holiday tree, or under the bush (well maybe it has something to do with a bush).



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