Saturday, April 30, 2011

True Happiness Is

In the original.
"True happiness is a verb. It's the ongoing dynamic performance of worthy deeds. The flourishing life, whose foundation is virtuous intention, is something we continually improvise, and in doing so our souls mature. Our life has usefulness to ourselves and the people we touch."

- Epictetus, The Art of Living

* * *

I came upon Epicetus' phrase "the flourishing life" and found the 180 of the fucked life - not simply unfucked, but flourishing. Who doesn't want to flourish? Yet, yet, yet...  We don't, do we? We bog ourselves down in circular thoughts that leave us exhausted from trying to find the one unequivocal moment that was true or righteous or damning. We look for stasis, certainty, stability and ignore the everflowing changes in our lives. Because we live we change. Nothing holds its previous shape and yet we fuck ourselves trying to make believe it does.

Happiness is a verb and requires continual improvisation. Brilliant.

* * *

What is it in us that wants to go backwards, that wants things to remain as they were, that fears the constancy of change? Epictetus' forerunner, Heraclitus, tells me I can't step into the same river twice and yet I have spent too much of my life trying to do just that: stop time. I wanted my father to live again; I wanted the love of one remarkable woman to return again; I wanted to return to the moment before the wheels came off so I could bolt them on and so on and so on and so on. Death, the loss of love, mistakes are all benign plagues that exist externally, in our outward lives. The malignant plague is how we internalize those outward events and judge ourselves sorely because we could not hold off our beloved's death, the end of love, our inherent fallibility. This is to cease improvising and instead devote time and energy to living in the one moment where we imagined ourselves whole. By doing so we forever exclude any chance at wholeness, at happiness, at a flourishing life.

Snap out of it. Forgive yourself, but for fuck's sake, snap out of it.

* * *

I still dream of my father. The other night I saw him standing in the backyard of the home I grew up in. I was in my childhood bedroom looking out the window, and there he was smiling, laughing, tending to his fat, black Weber kettle. I still dream of the remarkable woman. The same night as my father's dream I was running through a school built like an Escher labyrinth. I escaped, but had to get back in to retrieve something. When I got there she emerged from behind a closed door, grabbed my arm and pulled me into her classroom. I still dream and in my dreams I am called to let go, all is well now, hush, close your eyes, my best beloveds are still with me, bred in my bone, informing each gesture and choice. They are gone only in the external world; they exist as part of who I am now. Their lesson is ancient: you can't step into the same river twice, but that doesn't mean you can't enter the stream and be carried by the currents that flow through you.

That is the flourishing life.
That is the life improvised to address the tasks set before it.
That is the life worth having.

* * *

Unfuck yourself and live before you die.



  1. I am a visitor. Your words move me as if they were all verbs, for this reason, I am and can only be a visitor. In high school I was a part of a retreat weekend that featured getting away from school and connecting with lives that I passed by everyday through the halls and classrooms. We existed in those places, we thought; but we did not. It was a place for flourishing, as many would say our time in school is... but does it end there? Does it ever need a place? What environment does flourishing depend on besides the passage of time to which we all claim one time or another or each time that we are all victims of? What passage of time is this that strikes me as significant to my being, my life, my happiness, if not the downfall of each and every moment... to say I will stay is to say that I will never need to remember... and is not there the words which strike the movement of the human soul to return, not in time, but to itself? The flourishing of dreams is not a retreat of the mind but a glimpse where existence dares not exist but as visitors of each other. We must ascend even our memories for they crumble under the weight of hereto-after, or live in this wreckage where we die by the claim of each others soul. Whose can I possess but my own? But without whose can my soul desire for flourishing? And even in that, in this world, am I not only a visitor, visiting time, and these words which move me from one body to another. In schooling, the halls required narrowness to find the boundaries which we were told would come undone with knowledge. But no one spoke of this evermore narrow chamber of skin that we each traverse and attempt to tear asunder. Where else but memories can the soul retreat? And where else but in memories does our touch/reach become incapacitated? I do not pose these questions because they deny me (or you, or anyone), even though some would say I am trying to find something/one I lost... on the contrary, I discover in these queries a universal purpose I can never call my own. Nonetheless, I oft only feel that which my soul undoes. To unfuck myself, the paralysis of death speaks to me in the tongues of each memory. This is a way to listen to death while you live, to understand it, not to reason with it, but to carry it as a visitor of life, so that when we become that visitor (that memory, that river) others will know its face(s) better than our own. I am a visitor, your words move me... death does not know time, it is infinite.

  2. Tom Waits said, "The world is not my home/I'm just a-passin' through/Come on up to the house." This blog is the house. Thanks for being here.