Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thursday, Sept 21: Happiness, Slow and Fast

There seems to be a common misperception of happiness, that it is only the big stuff: dancing your brains out to loud music, maybe in a drunken state of abandon (or sex in the same thrashing froth), or driving your four wheel drive vehicle through swash and dale, destroying habitat right and left, again, with a loud rock soundtrack giving false proof to how alive you are. This is the happiness as blowout school.

Let’s look at children. Sometimes they are surely enthusiastic about life, running, jumping, splashing, shouting, laughing with abandon and glee. But the equivalent of the loud music frolicking or the driving and ruining big patches of the earth would be hard to find. A severely constrained child, if let loose finally, might bash the pans or throw rocks through a window or at least push some boulders down a hill, but the truly happy child does not seem to require the blow-off vibes of adult so called “happiness.”

They can be calmly happy, playing in a stream, setting sticks to race away, happily rolling down a hill, happily watching clouds float by in the ski. Notice how little of this is available to children these days, as they are either indoors on some computer game or being chauffeured to and then participating in some organized sport.

Here we have another great fake form of happiness: competition. Winning lets one half of the players be “happy,” and the others? Good sportsmanship? Maybe. Probably not. Probably they are learning to feel bad when they lose and are getting all firmed up to “try harder” next time.

The scrimmages, though, without the score being a big deal, sometimes they are fun, and sometimes it’s just good exercise, keeping them out of trouble and finally outdoors and a sort of advanced form of baby sitting: their organized sport giving Mom or Dad a little time off before the return chauffeuring trip is required.

The point is not supposed to be about how organized sports are depriving children of a chance to organize on their own, come up with rules and keep the rules and dealing with that whole thing on their own, and depriving them of creek time and lazy time and hill and dale time. The point is that real child happiness is not the thrash around sort that adults seem to mistake for a “really good time.”

Of course, if all you do in your life is walk to the car and walk from the parking lot to the next office or store, then a thrashing around dance scene could be good exercise. And cathartic.

And, to my mind, catharsis is not happiness. Happiness is either SLOW: watching the leaves blow in the wind, taking a walk hand in hand, singing a song you enjoy singing,

or EXUBERANT, sailing in a brisk breeze or skiing a challenging slope, or even dancing with fullness and pleasure, just not all the I can thrash more than you stuff that you see so many boomers get into when the rock n’ roll goes on.

And the happiness of learning, and discovery. This is key to a good and great childhood, and essential to a rich and vital adulthood, which is why this essay is in the Feldenkrais Blog.

We can all have some fun, coming to the present, being happy already and then contemplating the various other forms of happiness in our lives.

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