Happiness Quote Week Three

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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.    

 – Mark Twain

There’s not much to discuss regarding this quote.  It’s pretty straightforward and succinct in its instructions.  This is remarkable, considering the lengths and effort Twain would often take to prove an otherwise simple point. 

I think most humans would benefit from asking someone older than them (i.e., their parents, grandparents, etc.) the things they regret about their lives.  I wonder if Twain’s maxim would hold up to the light of day- do people really regret the things they didn’t do, or do they regret the things they did?  It could be argued that you’re really talking about two different sides of the same coin- not doing something would mean, by definition, doing something else. 

One of the reasons I rescued the plant yesterday- by the way, it appears to be doing a little better- is that I knew I would regret it if I didn’t.  There was a secret and silent song in my heart that let me know it was the thing I was meant to do in that moment and time.  It would probably serve us well to listen to that voice more often- to drown out the static that pervades our daily lives and tune in to the one channel that matters: our own.   

Happiness Quote Week Two

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

– Albert Camus

While perusing quotes about happiness, I encounter a great many that seem to trumpet this principle that the quest for happiness is always fruitless- that the search itself destroys what we seek. 

I once read somewhere that humor is a lot like that- when we attempt to analyze a joke we understand why it is funny but the process causes the joke to lose much of its humor.  The same thing happens when I create a mental image- I can often see it in incredible detail with my mind’s eye unless I focus and try too hard, if that makes any sense.  Then the image quickly falls away.

There’s another scene that comes to mind from The Simpsons.  On one occasion, Marge asks Bart if he wants to ride a tandem bicycle with her.  He responds that he would, but he’s busy playing his video game.  The screen cuts to a video game where he’s riding a bicycle outside, and pressing a button fervently to pedal uphill.  As he does so he narrates, “Alright, I’m at the top of the hill.  Time to enjoy the view.  Enjoy!  Enjoy!  Enjoy!  Enjoy!” as he continues to push the button in an effort to fill up his enjoyment meter on the screen.  I would like to think that Mr. Camus would definitely disapprove of that.

However, I think Camus would also disapprove of someone who never stopped to take stock of their emotional inventory or to question whether or not they were making worthwhile decisions.  He worries about people who wonder what happiness “consists of,” to use his language.  I agree that happiness, like humor, is best left unexplored on such a fundamental level.  Some things should never be dissected, explicated or laid out on a cold and bare table- the symbolic human heart is one such thing.  That said, I think he would agree that doing things that tend to create happiness is a valid and healthy exercise, as long as we don’t question too deeply why or how such things work.

The following quote states this perfectly:

“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”

– William Wordsworth 

As I read this I look back on the football game I played yesterday.  During the game my five senses went into overdrive and any attempt at tranquility was shot.  There was simply no time to recollect anything while I was experiencing the moment.  Even now, many moments in the game are being lost to the gradual withdrawal of time.  A few moments burned into my memory so deeply, however, that I feel they’ll be with me for the rest of my life.

The ball hanging high in the air- only sense sight and the wet earth beneath my feet- not knowing who’s around me or behind me or what’s in front- don’t think- keep moving- caught.

When you’re enjoying life, you can’t stop and do that- it would ruin the moment.  However, after you’ve wrenched every last drop of fun out of an event, look back on it with a calm outlook in a few days later and “replay” the moments in your mind.  Recollection offers the individual a chance to take further enjoyment from a pleasurable event.