7 September 2012

In Averted Vision in the NYTimes, Tim Kreider writes on happiness:

We do each have a handful of those moments, the ones we only take out to treasure rarely, like jewels, when we looked up from our lives and realized: “I’m happy.” One of the last times this happened to me, inexplicably, I was driving on Maryland’s unsublime Route 40 with the window down, looking at a peeling Burger King billboard while Van Halen played on the radio. But this kind of intense and present happiness is heartbreakingly ephemeral; as soon as you notice it you dispel it, like blocking yourself from remembering a word by trying too hard to retrieve it. And our attempts to contrive this feeling through any kind of replicable method — with drinking or drugs or sexual seduction, buying new stuff, listening to the same old songs that reliably give us shivers — never quite recapture the spontaneous, profligate joy of the real thing. In other words be advised that Burger King billboards and Van Halen are not a sure-fire combination, any more than are scotch and cigars.

I didn’t always enjoy being a cartoonist. During the 12 years of my career, if I can call it that, I bored my friends and colleagues by complaining bitterly about the insulting pay, the lack of recognition, the short half-life of political cartoons as art. And yet, if I’m allowed any final accounting of my days, I may find, to my surprise, that I reckon those Fridays when I woke up without an idea in my head and only started drawing around noon, calling friends at work for emergency humor consultations, doing frantic Google image searches for “Scott McClellan” or “chacmool,” eating whatever crud was in the fridge, laughing out loud at my own jokes, and somehow ended up getting a finished cartoon in by deadline, feeling like an evil genius, to have been among my best.

But during the time I was actually focused on drawing — whipping out a perfect line, spontaneous but precise, or gauging the exact cant of an eyelid to evoke an expression, or immersed in the microscopic universe of cross-hatching — I wasn’t conscious of feeling “happy,” or of feeling anything at all. I was in the closest approximation to happiness that we can consistently achieve by any kind of deliberate effort: the condition of absorption. My senses were so integrated that, on those occasions when I had to re-draw something entirely, I often found that I would spontaneously recall the same measure of music or line of dialog I’d been listening to when I’d drawn it the first time; the memory had become inextricably encoded in the line. It is this state that rock-climbers and pinball players and libertines are all seeking: an absorption in the immediate so intense and complete that the idiot chatter of your brain shuts up for once and you temporarily lose yourself, to your relief.

A friend once told me that being happy is a state that you find yourself in, not something you declare. At the time, I had a sneaking suspicion that the reason he (and I too, as well) was not-so-slightly wary of declaring happiness was because of the all too common fear that as soon as you call it by name, it will slip past you– whether because you’ve jinxed it or because there’s something inherently contradictory about being truly happy and noticing it. Lately I’ve found myself in the middle of a mad rush — I’ll be moving, albeit temporarily, to a whole new place I’ve never been to. I’ve been quelling the feeling of excitement that’s about to burst out of my gut because I fear that it won’t be real until I see it. I’ve also been absorbed, lately, with the slow, sweet unravelling of a quandary I used to have.

Some days I’m just truly overwhelmed. :)


One Response to “”

  1. crankylout said

    has your gut burst already? :)

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