Sunday, October 30, 2005

Happiness and Unhappiness--Part 2

Here is the second installment of the paper I mentioned in my last post:

My Education about Happiness and Unhappiness Continues

“Is our desire to be happy all that it should be?,” asked Mr. Siegel. “It isn’t; we can be pretty sure of that. Because to desire to be happy is an art, it’s a philosophy, it’s a big thing.”

I’m glad I can study how I’ve wanted to be happy and also not to be—and it’s a live subject. For instance, speaking with my husband, jazz pianist and music teacher Alan Shapiro, about the subject of this seminar, I saw how ready I’d been, just that day, to find reasons to be unhappy. First, when I woke up, I saw it was pouring outside, and driving to my class on Long Island would take longer; I just knew I’d be late, and I was! Not only that, but when I got there, the door was locked, and I couldn’t find my way when I went in another entrance. I was late, soaked, and lost!

How might a person use occurrences like these not to be unhappy? The answer, Aesthetic Realism teaches, is to be found in aesthetics—in how opposites are present; and the central opposites are always self and world. For example: rain, weather as such, and time are big aspects of the world we meet all the time. A person could have a good time thinking about what rain is, and how it affects other things, such as roads, cars, grass, the colors of things, one’s own feelings. And we could ask: “What is my attitude to time? How do other people see it?” Though one might still be late, the state of mind making for this kind of thought has much more respect in it, and it would make for greater ease and pleasure.

I’m so glad I can learn about the moment by moment fight between wanting to be happy through liking reality and wanting to have the pleasure of contempt by finding reasons to be displeased. That I have a marriage in which my husband and I can be friendly critics of each other as to this is cause for tremendous gratitude.