As the famously grouchy Ernest Hemingway once said, it’s very rare to find an intelligent, happy person. Of course, I’m paraphrasing. (Mostly because I suspect this will seriously piss off old Ernie, wherever he is. …Hell, probably.)
My whole life, I’ve been fascinated by this happiness/knowledge connection. Is it better to see/feel/know too much, and risk becoming broken and jaded? Or protect yourself from certain aspects of life, and remain innocent, even naive in certain respects? Which path makes for the utmost happiness? Is it possible to live both ways?
As the saying goes, “Ignorance is bliss.” Someone far less famous than Hemingway said that. (But I’m using quotes anyway, because take that, you drunk old bastard! Maybe be a little less verbose in the next life.) But what do we most commonly associate with a state of bliss? Ignorance, for one thing, because of that saying. Pleasure, usually fleeting, characterized by its connection with carnal pursuits, drug use and the dystopian state of having complicated thoughts removed from our heads? Or, if you prefer the Webster definition, a form of “perfect joy.”
Perfect is something I’ve never seen in this life. So, being somewhat agnostic (much like our literary friend, Wallowy McGee), I cannot say with any authority whether it exists. But I do believe in happiness, because I have felt it. Ironically, most strongly in some of life’s least perfect moments.
To me, happiness has always seemed less of a state and more of a nebulous and personal concept that most people spend their entire lives attempting to define. More ink blot than emotion, happiness is whatever you want it to be, and what it looks like changes from moment to moment based on experiences and the inevitable paradigm shift of a life fully lived.
That said, I realize this is only my opinion, and one many people do not share. However, I’ve noticed a lot of people–that lovable yet blustering, bearded literary d-bag included–try to impress their definition of happiness on others. Drinking to make the world around you seem more interesting is one thing, but telling other people what happiness is, or isn’t, just seems like kind of a waste of time. Judging the source seems even less worthwhile, if possible. Especially if you’re pointing to people and saying “Oh, he’s only happy because he doesn’t know any better.” Or, “It’s impossible for me to be happy, because I know too much.”
In my sometimes less than humble opinion (still more humble than Hemmy, though, holla!) I don’t think happiness has anything to do with the intelligence level of the person who is (or is not) experiencing it. Instead, I submit that true happiness is the ability to choose whether to laugh or cry at any given moment. No matter what is happening. They say “discretion is the better part of valor,” and “cleanliness is next to godliness.” But that doesn’t have to mean indiscreet acts are always cowardly, or dirty people are closer to hell. (Except Hemingway, of course. We all know it; even he knew it, and he was too drunk to get home half the time.)
Seriously, though. I believe knowing when to stop taking things so seriously is one of the coolest and most useful benefits of higher cognition. A good sense of humor is what separates us from the plankton, and the republicans. It gives us power over pain like nothing else in the world.
And some of the funniest people I know are also the smartest, and happiest, because they’ve figured this part out. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Sighballs Stogeyface. I defy your assertion–however misquoted–that you can’t question and explore, devour all the knowledge you can hold, and still take limitless joy in all the world’s f***ed up glory. Laughing at things like Epic Fail videos on YouTube, and political satire, and Milli Vanilli, and wine.
To be fair, Old Blustery and I do agree on one thing, and on this topic I will happily quote him: “Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”
You know what, Ernie? You’re okay. Carry on, my white-bearded bro.
Writer. Agent. Lover of wine and smelly cheeses. Solver of problems. Drinker of coffee. Champion of real life HEAs.