Thursday, January 17, 2008

Is Happiness Overated?

Many years ago a doctor gave me a prescription to help with depression after a family tragedy. I took the pills for three days. Yes, indeed, they made me 'happy'. I was content with everything, so I did nothing with a big smile. For me, if there's no edge, nothing gets accomplished. In my life, the worthwhile changes have sprung from unhappiness. As Carse says in Finite and Infinite Games, "Only that which can change can continue."
Eric Wilson writes about the creative force of melancholia in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
I for one am afraid that American culture's overemphasis on happiness at the expense of sadness might be dangerous, a wanton forgetting of an essential part of a full life. I further am concerned that to desire only happiness in a world undoubtedly tragic is to become inauthentic, to settle for unrealistic abstractions that ignore concrete situations. I am finally fearful of our society's efforts to expunge melancholia. Without the agitations of the soul, would all of our magnificently yearning towers topple? Would our heart-torn symphonies cease?

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