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  1. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth February 3, 2010 5:46 pm

    That post made me grin…it’s classic McElroy.

    And with apologies to McElroy (who I admire considerably), it also leaves me feeling a little dry, dehydrated. She is among the very best I’ve read, in taking the epistomologist’s approach to, well, just about everything. When there is need of an answer to “what happened and why?”, hers is exactly the sort of measured-but-principled response I want to see first. And she is so delightfully consistent that she applies the approach even to things as marvelously irrational as the abstraction of “happiness”.


    I like my happiness a bit more unexplained; like music or love, attempts to pin it down just seem to chase it away. (Keep in mind I say this as a fairly serious music theory geek…)

  2. Claire
    Claire February 3, 2010 6:26 pm

    Well and eloquently said, Kevin. I admit to having a bit of the same reaction. I recall a friend from years back, studying to be an orchestra conductor. He was so aware of the music on a technical level that he never seemed actually to enjoy it.

    That said, though, I love Wendy’s writing and her thoughtful approach to life. And given how many of us just stumble along, wondering why we’re not happy, but not knowing how we might actually create more happiness, if Wendy’s piece gets anybody thinking about what their own happiness is (or could be) … well, it’s a good thing.

    (I’m afraid that last sentence wasn’t my most brilliant. But it’s been a long day and I’m tired.)

  3. Pat
    Pat February 3, 2010 6:51 pm

    I read Wendy today and am eager to read more of what she has to say. But until I understand more fully where she’s going, I have to echo Kevin’s remarks.

    Happiness can’t always be defined by what we are or what we believe, any more than it can be defined by what we want or what we possess. What one is, or has become, will certainly contribute to his happiness, but does not MAKE his happiness. He has to take his character and fit it into the world around him in the most productive way he can.

    I think happiness is more a feeling of fulfillment or self-satisfaction β€” or of serenity, if you will πŸ™‚ β€” for how one is living his life. Self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-responsibility add to his happiness, but, again, they do not MAKE him happy. He has to understand why he is what he is β€” and in this Wendy is correct β€” but also how to play that out in the real world.

  4. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth February 3, 2010 10:11 pm

    Regarding getting people thinking, wherever they may be at, I am in 100% agreement. And there is much in McElroy’s article to do that; I would point to the marvelous observations that have as much value in and of themselves, as what she gleans from them.

    Funny. Even as I write those words, it occurs to me that some years ago now I was more in the position of one who needed the benefit of the observer to give context to the observations. At that time, the writer was–ahem–Claire Wolfe. (Thanks.)

    I have been a bit fearful, personally, of encountering the potential problem you note about the aspiring conductor, because I love music so much the thought of it losing any magic just terrifies me. And yet I cannot seem to get enough of chord construction and the study of theory and technique as a sort of cow-catcher–that will make those difficulties inconsequential when the muse does call upon me to act. (The masochistic can peruse for evidence of the geekery.) Fortunately, I am happy to report that no matter how esoteric or mind-numbingly detailed the study may get, the magic is not slighted in the least–it actually seems to grow in stature.

    I suspect I’m also a bit of a freak on this, no denying that, but I like to think this is the way of things that matter. πŸ™‚

  5. George Potter
    George Potter February 4, 2010 12:24 am

    I find myself extremely wary of anyone elses definition of happiness. While I see nothing disagreeable or questionable in her attempt so far (nor do I expect to from WM), I’ve never known anyone to define it as anything other than a personal happiness. I think it’s one of those things that each individual has to uncover for themselves. I personally gave up on a consistent state of ‘happiness’ a while ago, striving instead for the more achievable state of ‘mostly comfortable with great flashes of joy.’ πŸ˜€

    But people are different. I’m not personally content without someone to look after: to cook and clean for. I have no idea why that’s so, but it is. To some that’s a recipie for misery, though I think the desire to care for others (especially the young, the elderly, the sick, etc.) is a base one. I’m also a wanderer, six months being around the limit of my being content in one spot.

    Another think tricky about defining happiness is the degree to which it relies on mood. I can be alternately unhappy alone and miserable in a crowd, or having the time of my life either way.

    In one sense you could say that ‘happiness’ is a constant effort to decide what your individual self wants and desires and the attendant effort to fill those wants and desires. Another reason to aim, instead for MCWGFOF: it’s less labor intensive and time consuming. πŸ˜‰

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