Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Happy Days

Stefka Drolc as Winnie in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days (1964)

One of the most indelible images that Dickens created is that of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. You’ll remember she’d been jilted and sits amidst cobwebs in her wedding dress, a creature frozen in time. Pip mistakenly thinks she’s his benefactor when it’s really the convict Magwitch who's the eminence grise. In fact, Havisham, to use a piece of psychobabbelese, is too “self-involved” and tormented to be the savior of anybody. You could also say that Magwitch is just returning a favor in a kind of quid pro quo—though that interpretation may be a trifle too reductive and diminishing of a complex character’s altruism. But the real subject, is of course, expectations, hopes. Dickens’ novel is a fairytale, which due to its very improbability almost speaks to the darker prognostication of fate. It’s like the deus ex machina in The Three Penny Opera whose real message is that in reality Macheath would be hanged. People suffer from varying degrees of hoping for the impossible. Some romantics are in love only with that which doesn't exist. Others are pragmatically inclined but the majority develop a faint distaste and boredom with what they have which they grudgingly learn to tolerate. Turn that emotion on its head (and remove the thrill of the unknown) and voila. Maybe you won’t have a Magwitch working behind the scenes to bring about your dreams, but you’ll find happiness. 

Read "What is Happiness?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

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