What is it to be happy? What does being happy mean? Well according to the Oxford Dictionary it means: feeling or showing pleasure or contentment. As a description it’s rather vague and circuitous. Happy, see pleasure, Pleasure, see happy. It says nothing of what makes you happy or that warm fuzzy feeling it gives you. I guess if it were a personalised version or a dictionary it could read Happiness: see shoes. But even that is too simplistic, what makes us happy one day may not the next or not to the same degree.
If you want to get all scientific about it, there is this thing called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which it a diagram in pyramid form which shows how our levels of need fulfilment become more refined as we satisfy the more basic ones on the list. The most basic level of this pyramid, the foundations if you like, are the basic human necessities, shelter, health, comfort. Going up in the pointy end to more exacting and more personal needs and personal goal fulfillments.
I’m happy at this moment, the sun is slowly setting, the light has a lovely pearlescent quality that is quite appealing, I feel a sense of achievement from completing a half descent painting. My dinner was quite pleasant, it’s quiet but for the occasional seagull cry that reminds me I am lucky enough to live by the sea and the gentle sound of one of my neighbours practising the flute on the far periphery.
And at this moment (a day later thanks to the marvels of the elastic nature of time when you write stuff) I am sitting in the bath, book in hand, enjoying the warmth, the boyancy, the guilty pleasure of a slightly trashy page turner of a novel.
It’s so easy to skip right past these things or take them for granted. I take little for granted nowadays but it is a hard to marry appreciation for the little things with an illness as all encompassing as depression that swallows and chews up everything in its path. To be honest, sometimes you might as well be talking to a completely different person but it’s not a Jeckle and Hyde situation, more of where something is on the dial and sadly my depression dial very much goes up to eleven.
I really do appreciate the little things, you learn to if you been denied them. If you have ever experienced the hangover from hell that is recovering from general anaesthetic you will know just how much you appreciate 15mm of water when you haven’t had a drop all day. Illness has taught me a lot in life, whether it be headaches, crippling back pain or my most recent through the wringer experience with near fatal heart problems, I’d like to think that each has reinforced the appreciation of all those invisible things we take for granted, well until they go wrong that it.
Every now and again I become fascinated by my own hands, the gift of multiple jointed fingers and the dexterity they bring is truly wonderful. It’s so sad to me that most dexterity now seems to be wasted on fiddling with mobile phones. The modern world can so often now be seen as little more than a string of opportunities for selfies and photographs of people being seen to be having ‘fun’ on social media platforms. Society now takes the wonders of the world and condenses them, and flattens them and scatters them into a sea of data to hide in plain sight amidst everyone else’s posts.
Colour makes me happy in ways that are hard to describe, just dancing a Japanese manga pen around a piece of paper is a whole world of wonder on it’s own, watching lines thicken and the ink pool can be almost hypnotising. Some colours just squirted from a tube are just georgeous even if you do nothing with them, opera rose is a real doozy and then there is the wonder that is Yves Klein blue a pigment so hard to aquire that, unless you’ve turned up to certain art galleries at the right time, you probably haven’t experienced its beauty. I love the grainy suspension quality of some watercolour pigments and the way that what looks like an simple single colour on the tip of a brush breaks down with paper absorption and drying times into a many graded colour wash. Blimey! I’m disappearing up my own bottom here but there is a point to this. If you don’t work with colour, and its idiosyncrasies when painting, photographing or printing it, then it’s hard to really comprehend what you can miss if you aren’t engaged with the world at first hand.
The absence of a thing can make me extremely happy, at this moment (see above note on the concept of ‘now’ in terms of the slow business of writing) I would deeply appreciate the absence of my downstairs neighbours as they fill the air with smoke from a poorly prepared bonfire, their shitty tinny music and their inane babble that becomes more so as they get progressively more drunk. Silence is something I greatly appreciate, I can draw or read in silence for hours if the world permits, many just feel the need to constantly fill it with their personal interpretation of what good music is, unaware that it is such a subjective thing that it swiftly can become the audio equivalent of emptying a rubbish truck into someone else’s living space.
I have sometimes been accused of being a negative person but,as in mathematics, being negative about being negative can be positive. Whereas being positive about the negative can fill your life with bad things and fill up the space that could be filled with all that good stuff that there is in the world. At this moment the absense of said rude, thoughtless and selfish neighbours would allow me to enjoy the simple pleasure of a quiet Friday evenings and the basic human right not to be labouring for every breath. The absence of the negative qualities described above would be a definite positive to myself and all my other neighbours.
Some negatives are easier to deal with, like turning off notifications on Facebook to about 95% of my Facebook friends newsfeeds and absenting myself from a lot of petty nonsense that used to wind me up. It’s amazing how long it took me to work out something so simple. Apparently there is now a ‘local’social media platform too where you connect with people in you local geographical area… I wonder how many feuds and murders that has caused so far? Suffice to say I won’t be joining that potential vipers nest.
Some people are extremely negative, sucking up resources, energy, other people’s time or whatever. It is a sad observance but I have discovered that this current make up of society favours those who wholeheartedly believe they have a talent or ability for doing something rather than those who actually can and quietly go about it. A self propagated Emporer’s New Clothes delusion that can sweep others along in its wake and take away the creative oxygen from those with real talent and originality. In the sphere of art and making my own personal litmus test for weeding out the worst of the deluded is the level at which someone uses the word ‘studio’ with a straight face. If you ever catch anyone referring to their spare room, their garage or their shed as a studio or indeed anywhere smaller than an industrial unit, run!
Anyway, enough of that.
It’s mainly the simple things that make me happiest. The quiet, watching the sea, feeling the sun on my skin or indeed a gentle breeze, a smile or a touch from the right person, the first coffee of the day, the smell of books..
There is one other thing that makes me very happy indeed and that is my bed which is where I shall be heading shortly (that ever present ‘now’ again). I suffer from occasional bouts of insomnia so a good night’s sleep is a precious gift indeed, and there we have that notion of absense again.
So there we are, I hope you are happy with what makes me happy. Goodnight!