Friday, July 3, 2009

Life, Liberty and . . .

. . . the Pursuit of Happiness

I have an ongoing debate with a friend over whether or not Happiness is the proper subject of a pursuit. I contend it is a uniquely American concept that we should pursue Happiness. Is it possible that thanks to Mr. Jefferson we pursue that which other cultures take to be the collateral byproduct of the achievement of other goals? Is it unique that while the rest of the world is worrying about whether the crops will come in or the rain will come or the British will invade, we Americans are out there pursuing, of all things, Happiness?

In this debate, I argued that as an actor, one plays a character by defining the character’s moment to moment goals in terms of actions. One would not list “happiness” as the goal of any character. Well, one could - but how boring would that be? Happiness is not an action therefore it cannot be played. Only goals can be played; therefore happiness is not a goal to be pursued. Happiness, like good acting, is simply the consequence of good choices.

ModerneMama at The Beach House has tagged me in a challenge to list 6 uninteresting things that make me happy. Does my pursuit of any the following mean that I pursue Happiness?

One – In thinking of the least interesting thing I could think of, I thought “Diet Peach Snapple.” How silly. It’s cool and refreshing and refreshingly tasty, but happiness inducing? Nah. Then I thought, maybe it’s the convenience of just being able to run around the corner and pick up a delicious Diet Peach Snapple at any hour, day or night that makes me happy. So, is it the proximity of a 7-11 that makes me happy? Nah.

Living in the City makes me happy - being close to the things that I need. I’m one walking minute from a convenience store. I’m seven (street, not freeway) driving minutes from The Music Center and Disney Concert Hall and MOCA. I’m 20-ish street driving minutes through moderate traffic from LACMA. I can walk to a city library and to an indie bookstore and to an abundance of antique stores. On weekends I can walk to chilaquiles for breakfast and pizza for lunch and to three or more vegan restaurants for dinner. Before or after dinner, I can walk around the corner to a wine bar.

I would as soon move to Siberia as ever again live in the suburbs. Living in a city makes me happy. Los Angeles has its critics and those who even challenge its status as a real city. LA is not shaped like other cities, but it is still a city.

Two – Staying Up Late. Maybe I’m still rebelling against my childhood bedtime hour (which I’ve since learned was quite liberal in comparison to other families) but I love to stay up late - really late. When I win the lottery there will be travel and charities and all the cliché stuff, but what I most look forward to is never again going to bed before 3 or 4 am. Being up really late when the air is cool, talking and drinking and listening to ‘possums poking around in the yard makes me happy.

Three – Twilight. Not the teen vampire movie but the opposite of late night, the early night time makes me happy. I love the twilight hours when the air is just starting to cool and everything shifts just a little into relax mode. Whatever happened in the day you can put behind you at twilight. Have a drink; sit in the yard; watch the dog walkers parade.

Four – Flowers that Grow in my Yard Without any Help from Me. Every year they come, they go and then they come back again and all without any help from me other than paying the water bill.

Five – The Junk Mail that Flows in Announcing the New Season of Cultural Events.

This Culture Vulture is on mailing lists for organizations far and wide. San Francisco Opera wants me to include them in my next trip to their city. I haven’t been to New Mexico since I was a kid, yet the Santa Fe Opera Company thinks I might pay a visit this year. LA Opera is doing a Barber of Seville this year and I must see a decent Barber of Seville. Near or far, I love seeing what they’re all up to. And I love planning my season. UCLA Performing Arts Series? What delights have you lined up for me this year? Angry, politicized dance theatre? Or edgy, politicized European experimental theatre? Hollywood Bowl? Count me in for Liza Minelli and maybe Pink Martini or even Koyaanisqatsi. Then there’s more 99-seat theatres than I can count or ever possibly attend and I think I'm on the mailing list for all of them.

Six – Pedicures. What could be more uninteresting than cleaning your feet and trimming your toenails? But having someone who does it well is a true indulgence. A fresh pedicure always makes me a small “h” happy.

I now challenge the six bloggers listed below to list six uninteresting things that make them happy. Just link back to me in your post and then tag six others to blog their lists. Just make a list. You don't have to be as blabby as I've been.

Do it. It’ll make you happy to think about the little things that make you happy.

The Conjurer

Just a Girl and Her 1911 Craftsman

Babas Farm Life

Shaker Heights Restoration


Heidi Rodeo

And thank you Mr. Jefferson and the other Founders who gave us the right to pursue Happiness.


modernemama said...

That is the best list ever - you reveal so much about your life, and things that are uniquely important to you in a really interesting way.

TMA said...

Yes, I agree with modernemama. Pretty revealing stuff and I greatly enjoyed it!

I do have a problem with finding 6 uninteresting things that bring me happiness as I find that, if it brings me happiness (of which you know I remain in strong pursuit of) it has got to be of interest as to why.

Why S? said...

MM - thank you. That's very kind of you to say that.

T - It's all a big conundramedy.

NV said...

"The U.S. Constitution doesn't guarantee happiness, only
the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself."
--Benjamin Franklin

I have this tacked on my bulletin board above my desk! It is there to remind me that we all make our own happiness and that I, too, am responsible for my own.

I try to find joy in the littlest of things and I think we are ALL in pursuit of some kind of happiness whether we are aware of it or not.

Why S? said...

Not to be nit-picky NV, but I suspect that's one of those sayings attributed to Franklin that he never actually said. The reason I think that is because the Constitution doesn't make reference to the pursuit of happiness, only the Declaration does.

Either way, the sentiment is correct, each citizen must pursue her/his own Happiness, however I DO believe that it is the obligation of government to not deny that pursuit or to create circumstances hindering that pursuit (as laws that would deny right to marriage) and I would even say that government has an obligation to provide circumstances that would facilitate that pursuit (as in providing accessible higher education to all deserving students as well as affordable health care to all.)

NV said...

TOTALLY agree.

LBTudor said...

It makes me happy that you mention cocktail hour can happy at any hour. Love the flower pictures.

Why S? said...

LB - you make me laugh. I hadn't realized I'd painted myself as a 24hour drinker. I was about to write that I had limits and that I never drink at the first meal of the day - - and then I remembered brunch.