What do I need to do to be happy?
Dear Seeker of Happiness,
You did not affix your name to this missive, so I know not what to call you. Are you a man, a woman, or somewhere else on the sexgender spectrum? Are you a girl in the elementary school staring at her just-begun day with a fist full of colored pencils and dread that today will be the day you are asked to draw an elephant but you do not know what an elephant looks like? Perhaps you are an old man, new to this internet wonder. You are curious if there is some website, some trove of utilities and social connections, that will complete you. An unhappiness burns within you that shrieks, "Completion of my person is near at hand but I lack the knowledge base to grasp it!"
Are you an American, awash in piles of cheap cornstuffed food? Never do you miss a meal. Your water is clean and free of parasites and sewage. Your unhappiness settles on your slave-made clothes like a miasma of guilt and wasted time.
Do you live in Chinese-occupied Tibet? Are you one of the Nigerians who does not scam via email? Is this a complicated email-ish scam that I am not grasping with all lobes of my brainsac?
But even presuming I did have some vestige of a clue as to who (or what) you might be, whom am I to trade in tales of happiness? Am I happy? Sophocles famously advised that we should "call no man happy until he is dead." As Rob passed my tank this morning I asked him what he thought of this quotation. He scratched at his shagginess and replied, "Like, does he mean that if a dude looks happy now, you shouldn't call him happy because at any moment shit could go south? Y'know, he's whistling in the A.M., has a hotdog at lunch, thinks he's got heartburn, it ends up being explosive gut cancer, and the fucker is a smear on the inside of his Corolla's windshield by 6 P.M.?" I replied I did not know. The original Greek is no more illuminating, especially as pertains to the Toyota Corolla. "Or—wait—is it more like, if you call a brother happy then you're basically just drawing a big Greek karma tragedy bullseye on him, and now all those inbred swan-fuckers are gonna whip him out a piss storm?"
I thought to begin to reply when Rob held aloft a single grimy paw, "No, no, wait—probably it's more like you shouldn't call a dude happy when he's alive, because fuckers are so mad crazy happy in the afterlife that it just doesn't even compare, right? Like, even if you're right in the middle of a crazy-freak oral eight-way with the Canadian ladies curling team, it's totally nothing compared to how awesome it is to be dead. You know, 74 virgins all cooking up extra-spicy vindaloo 24/7."
Rob looked down upon his sneaker shoes, and shook his head. "Sorta makes you wish you were dead right now, don't it? Dead, or at least at that one Indian buffet with the all-you-can-eat lunch."
I validated these claims, and we settled the matter by agreeing that Sophocles' observations, in this matter, where at best "a bummer," and in no case very helpful.
This is the problem, Secret Reader, with considering happiness. The more you strain to see it, the more blurred it becomes. Every joy is a pain when considered too fiercely. Every blessing a curse. If the Tiger-of-the-Woods wished to retire from the golfing to pursue sex with females full-time, would not a part of him forever begrudge this choice? Would not it say, "You are the most skilled golfist who has ever golféd. By spending your days engaged in pleasurable mating rituals, you ignore the work at which you are most talented." His gift of golf becomes a duty to the holes of the world.
Am I happy? Were there times when I was happier? Perhaps. There are warm mornings when the sun above Windsor sparkles just right and my mind is cast back like an emptying tide to that year I spent living with Hazel in a broken environmental suit. Life was simple and terrifying then. I would not have classified it as happy at the time, but with the hindsight . . . perhaps. Is this a function of happiness? Does it only exist in the past, in memories? Is it never a thing we can grasp afore us and shake and roar at, screaming "Here today I am a happy being! Know this, universe, that I have found what you so assiduously have hidden! I am your master in this. I win!" But no, of course not. Happiness lives in the present tense, in the slowly unfurling future of time. What we see when we peer back through the clouds of history is not happiness. It is contentment.
There are times I miss Tom. The easy days of Cincinnati. The office was small, mostly filthy. He wore his hatred of me like a riot policeman wears a shield. He wielded his wit like a policeman uses a truncheon to cause contusions and brain damage upon the working peoples of the riot. I was not happy at the time, but now. Now I am content.
In lieu of details or biographical data, I will issue Generic Advice for Achieving Happiness.
The Giant Squid
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