“With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy.”
- Lope de Vega
“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?”
- Oscar Wilde
And yet, how strange happiness is. There's a quotation that I see floating around quite often lately, which is from Hugh Mackay's book, The Good Life.
“I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that - I don’t mind people being happy - but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep”, and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position - it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.”
- Hugh Mackay
In writing this blog, I'm seeking calm. I wish to be content. Happy, even. But of course the days are full of ups and down, small anguishes, worries, torments. And it's perhaps odd to imagine that all these discomforts might contribute to an overall happiness, or wholeness, as Mackay puts it.
Rumi speaks to those moments of disappointment:
"Someone asked a great sheikh
what sufism was.
'The feeling of joy
when sudden disappointment comes.'
"Don't grieve for what doesn't come
Some things that don't happen
keep disasters from happening."
I find fall to be such an emotional season. It's hard to know what to do with all the 'feels' as the kids say. Usually I would write poetry. But am still in that limbo of wanting, needing to finish a few things before starting something new.
"The fragile vial inside me often breaks.
No wonder I go mad and disappear for three days
every month with the moon."
"Try and be a sheet of paper with nothing on it.
Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing,
where something might be planted,
a seed, possibly, from the Absolute."
Yesterday, my creative outlet came in the form of taking hundreds of photographs of leaves and bits and pieces of the flowers left in the garden.
And then still coming back to these dried roses, picked weeks ago. Trying to say something about the soul with them.