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October 26, 2012

Higher Ground

First, click this link.  You know that feeling when you turn on a car, the radio comes on right away (you’d forgotten to turn it off, really), and just the right song comes on, right at the beginning?  That’s what happened to me, with this song, in early September.

The day it happened was one of those bright, impossibly clear days that sometimes turn up right after it’s rained for a while.  The leaves were still damp on the ground, and the sun was behind me, illuminating the morning sky ahead as I glided up US 41, as joyful as I’d been all summer.  I was working a job I loved.  I was going to London.  I had family and friends who would be there for me, no matter what.  It felt like the whole world was conspiring to push me on, on, on.

The point of the story isn’t that the moment lasted.  It didn’t.  The point is that it stuck with me.

I think a lot of us are out there looking for happiness.  We want it every day, all the time.  We work to put ourselves in a position where we can just be happy, where we don’t have to search for it anymore.  I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.  It puts too much pressure on us, when we should be focusing on other things.

It seems to me that instead of looking for happiness as a permanent state of mind, we should be noticing and treasuring the moments of transcendent joy that come to us just every once in a while.  By expecting every single moment of our lives to be blissful, we’re just setting ourselves up for disappointment when, inevitably, they aren’t.  If, on the other hand, we treasure the singular moments, notice what brought us to them, and carry them with us like talismans, the hard days and harder nights become easier.

Forget for a minute that I was talking about my moment of joy.  Think about the last time you were really happy.  The moment when you were walking down the street and suddenly, for no real reason at all, you appreciated for a few moments just how lucky you are, what a blessed life you’re living.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Hold tight to that feeling, do the things that made you feel that way, and you’ll be a lot happier than if you spend your time looking for happiness in the abstract.

Please forgive my detour into advice-giving.  I’ve tried to avoid it on this blog; I’m not that old, and I don’t know that much.  So, caveat emptor and all that.   Here’s a few things I’ve been doing.

The line for food yesterday. Click on the picture to check out their website.

Remember those Hare Krishnas I talked about a few days ago?  I’m not sure I should be going and getting their food any more.  It’s not that it’s not tasty, it’s that I’m not sure I’m the one who should be getting free food every day.  There’s a bunch of homeless folks in that line every day, and a bunch of folks who aren’t that far this side of homeless.  Getting in that line with a Macbook in my backpack seems a little cheap to me.  Sure, I’m living on a budget.  But heck, I can spare a pound or two for lunch each day without getting in the way of what these guys are doing.

I’m reliably informed that the building in the picture above is the basis for Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.  In reality, it’s the University of London’s Senate House Library, and a lovely place to study.  It does rather look ominous when it looms out of the fog like that, though.  Good thing I have waaaaay too much work to be worried about things like that.  My first essay is due next Friday, and I’ve been working to learn, on the one hand, everything there is to know about the Doha Round and, on the other hand, learning how to write a British essay.  As it turns out, not too easy to do both.

Until next week, then, dear readers.  For all those applying early action, feel free to shoot me an email (rwatt@clarku.edu) with any questions you might have.  I know the deadline’s coming up :)

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