Happiness is not some wounded gazelle

Happiness is not some thing to be pursued. It is something practiced, practiced or imagined. Though, given, what is imagined is not always otherwise than real. Happiness happens, is an event. It takes place, in time. Time takes place, births forth in the material, in the physical. It is not touch. It is touching. Always, time is event, moment. Only after this is it chronology, narrative.

Time is not money. Time is life. Time is that temporal place where living happens. Living happens in time. Living, yes, but also that event we name with the word “boredom,” that slow sudden decent into a living death, the birth of zombies. Oh yes, we succumb to this little death, we give into it often and often far too easily.

We all get bored. Or at least most of us do. “There’s nothing to do,” we think, or “I don’t want to do anything.” And so we kill time. And then we wonder why we feel a little dead inside. And then we numb the deadness by escaping it. And then we wonder why we feel like zombies. And then we numb the zombieness by escaping it.

Having nothing to do shouldn’t feel like boredom. Especially for busy folk who often lack free time it should feel like freedom. Why doesn’t it? Because there’s no distraction from the moment, and in the moment the self get mirrored, grows, becomes a strange and untamed and untamable beast. For those set on pursuing happiness this is ruinous. It is no less ruinous for those who pursue happiness but value the journey just as much or more than the definition. And yet we kill ourself by killing time. Most of us don’t do it on purpose. Most of us say it but don’t mean it, don’t think we mean it. “I was bored so I killed some time.” Translation: “I was empty and I killed myself for a while.” Kierkegaard wasn’t wrong when he said boredom is a little death. But this little death doesn’t bring pain so much as lethargy.

We are waking creatures, you and I are, and we are creatures who create, who produce. Happiness is not some wounded gazelle to be pursued. Happiness isn’t some wounded gazelle, and more importantly, we are not lions, you and I aren’t. We’re not that strong and happiness is neither weak nor wounded. It is potent, happiness is, and essentially overwhelming. It is happiness, not us, that overpowers.  Happiness is what arrives, is what happens, when we feed others with our own efforts, it is what takes us when we sustain those around us. Practicing happiness like a tree practices spring, summer, autumn, and winter, like a fruit tree practicing flowering and bearing fruit and then becoming naked in autumn for the sake of spring and flowers and fruit, this is not unlike how happiness is practiced for us. We practice our seasons for a time, never mastering them. We don’t have time enough to master our seasons, our life. There’s not enough time in a life to master living, so why do we practice dying so readily? It’s that mirror, isn’t it?

The moment we’re not immediately needed, the moment between obligations and routines and rituals when we’re left only with ourselves, when we’ve already exhausted our escapes and we’re not yet ready to call the day done, it’s in those moments when we feel most trapped, most vulnerable, most in a corner and frightened. It’s in those moments that the pursuer and the prey are one.

How long has it been? How long has it been since you were content with what happiness and hope you yourself are?

Don’t return that favor. I don’t have an answer. Lord, have mercy. I don’t have an answer. I’m trying. That is all. I’m trying not to have an answer but to have a response.

Time is life. Time is that place where living happens, that place where what happens arrives. Happiness arrives, knocks, and is refused or is welcomed. It is not chased. You and I, we welcome happiness or else we don’t. Sometimes it arrives unexpected, becomes suddenly “there” or “here.” Most times it arrives unannounced, uninvited, and we’re sitting there after the work, maybe also after the gym, being bored, eyes chained to screens, the little-ease of our present age, our intimate monism.

My own slow suicides? My own addiction to a screen? My own often giving into boredom? My own chasing after happiness and my pride in saying I don’t? Don’t ask me that. Not yet. I’m too weak. I think I’m too big. I’m only learning. Please. Don’t ask. Only do ask. But ask me at another time. Please teach my myself. I don’t want to die alone so often. I want to die for someone, for something. Please. Help me learn.


One thought on “Happiness is not some wounded gazelle

  1. A wise rumination. You have given a kind, small voice to a truth.
    But it does leave me wondering: the feeling of boredom-fleeing–the slight, self-conscious, mental bruise of “this activity is mere distraction” with which we catch ourselves so often when we kill time–how trustworthy would you say such remorse is? I’m very unsure myself.
    Sometimes, I will sit on the back porch with a cigarette and a book, and I will think to myself that my book is an escape; that it would be more true to sit on the back porch and just to sit. Then I will read my book anyway.
    Sometimes, I will lie in bed with a sense of dis-ease and the old distraction-stomach will clamor to be fed, and I will instead turn my thoughts to philosophy. In such moments, I still find the remorse of distraction; as though what the moment demands, instead, is to simply sit, blank-minded, with the hunger-pangs. And to let them hunger. And to do nothing else.

    I guess my question is: what would you say is the extent to which our inner life can be an escape from our inner life? I ask only because this question keeps arising for me, and I’m curious.

    Myself, I went through a phase when the written word appeared to be an escape from the life of the body; when an appetite for literature appeared to come from dis-ease with Time’s moment-to-moment. Now, however, it seems that reading a book and dancing the chicken dance ought to be on about the same level: deep, rich, full engagement with Time seems utterly and profoundly inescapable, however hard we might try. I’m even tempted to say to my bored self “Awesome! You go, bored self! ENJOY your boredom! Love it deeply! Swing with that mood like a rope on a tree, and laugh like it’s 1999 and you’re eleven years old!”

    But I’m straying from your point. You want to talk more about joy and our flight from its ever-haunting presence through temporary distractions. But I wonder: how are those distractions not joy? And I wonder: to what can I turn to recover joy, if not this late-night facebook article on this screen; this keyboard and my fingers upon it, as I feel guilty for not going to bed at a reasonable hour because of my actual, real-life responsibilities tomorrow?

    Is philosophy a distraction, or is this remorse a lie and an illusion? Or is there some line to be drawn–but where?

    Rock on,

    BTW: your flourishing-tree-and-its-seasons analogy is KICKASS!


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