Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Monday, October 3, 2016
What is Happiness?
photograph of Sigmund Freud by Max Halberstadt
Everyone who has ever embarked upon a course of therapy
entertains the notion that someday they will be changed, different and yes
happy. Few people can probably define what happiness is (is it a form of
hedonism where desires are satisfied, or a spiritual attitude which totally by
passes the notion of gratification?). But that is a mute point, since no one
would embark on treatment unless they believed that the outcome, which could be
quantified, was positive. You think you want to go from here to there. Years
pass and you have gotten to know your physician, or social worker or healer
well and you keep waiting for that great come and get it day. As you get
older your faculties start to fade, yet the longing for the missing piece of the puzzle remains (Freud wrote a paper called "Analysis Terminable and Interminable"). Your libido decreases, you become arthritic,
the palette of experience from which you will produce your great artistic work
(if you are a musician, writer or painter) begins to narrow. Yet you remain tenacious in your faith. In any case, the therapy has begun to furnish you with
other rewards. It’s a kind of salvo for the pains of every day existence. Even
as you experience a diminution of your powers, you at least look forward to
seeing someone on whose metaphorical shoulder you can cry. He or she has become
the repository of a life time’s worth of memory and, in fact, if there is any
monument to your life, it becomes the putting one step in front of the other,
the showing up which is the substance of the therapeutic work. Still you hope.
You can’t live without hope. Perhaps the next week or the next month will bring
your desired epiphany and then finally the day comes, not the day of
revelation, but the day of your ending, the day on which you cease to be.
None of the things you wished for or thought you wanted may have happened, but is there anyone who would say that you were a lesser person due to the years of introspection and all the attempts to live
a better life?
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.