Saturday, I attended a periodic writers’ circle and read a flash-fiction piece from my previous anthology. It was about waking up one morning “happy,” without any reason to be. In the story, the guy just waits for the day to close in and press him back to his usual funk. The only suspense is in his waiting. Not really a page-turner: turn one page and you’re done.
It’s made me think. If our life is full of incident, or if it’s flat-lined, there may be some concrete reason to be happy or sad, depending on which way the ball bounces. But I’m wondering why we’re moved to ask the reason for any emotional state. I suppose we feel the need to preserve it if it’s desired or to change it if it’s not. There’s always an expectation of what we want it to be. “What makes you so happy?” is probably a less frequent question than “Why are you so sad?” But neither is guaranteed to get a real answer. Or at least one that’s lasting.
In part, it’s a function of your point of view. A lava flow can be a thing of wonder and beauty or a catastrophe: it depends on where you’re standing. Though it also depends on whether you seeing a village wiped out and hearing the screams, and whether it affects you.
Is there a state of emotion without cause? Surely those who suffer from chronic depression would answer Yes, though I could imagine that some would feel an impulse to connect their emotion with a cause beyond pure body chemistry.
But is there happiness without cause? One can fancy a Golden Age, when shepherds frisked over the meadows and the sheep strummed lutes. Yet is there a state of good cheer in spite of the news? Despite the daily dose of famine, war, exploitation, disease, slaughter on the playground, and global disasters pending? Does a joy in simply being alive depend on simple-mindedness or on the privileges of affluence, whiteness, maleness, and the ability to pay low taxes to the empire? Do the streets of empire ring with the sound of music or with a hideous blare? Or can we patch together small achievements, from a birthday surprise to the Nobel Prize?
For myself, there’s only one life, and it’s starting to approach the vanishing point. I doubt that I’ll have too many cheery years forthcoming, at least no more so than it’s ever been, and I doubt I’ll look forward to new successes, new horizons.
Whatever blessedness I wake to does very little to ease the pain on Earth or the billions of souls who wander in mud. But still I hope to wake with an open heart, to be happy for no reason at all except the discomforts of being alive. I’d like to feel the sun and shout, or even whisper, Yes!