"We should concern ourselves not so much with the pursuit of happiness, but with the happiness of the pursuit."
Once upon a time, before there were podcasts, I was going to create a podcast. It was to be an exploration of "how we celebrate." I was going to travel the world, for one year, and observe and take part in celebrations, big and small, personal and public: mardi gras and backyard weddings, New Year's Eve in Times Square and a christening in Addis Ababa.
Back then I worked as a radio reporter, so I did a deal with one of the syndicates we broadcast to. I would pre-record five minutes of "celebration stories" every week, play the recording to them over the phone (yes!), and they would then broadcast them to their 30 or so radio stations around Australia.
I don't think blogs had been invented in those days, and there certainly wasn't any YouTube or social media, so the visual component of my journey was to come later, in what I hoped would be a beautiful and inspirational book.
That would have been a good book, don't you think? How we celebrate.
Anyway the journey didn't happen because a misadventure in renting with flatmates unexpectedly required all my savings (which admittedly was only enough for my flights and not much more), and the whole idea kind of sank. Maybe one day, when the kids are grown up and I'm retired...
I was reminded of this whole non-journey recently when I watched a lovely, thoughtful little comedy called "Hector and the Search for Happiness." Have you seen it?
Essentially, Hector is a psychiatrist who gets fed up listening to and failing to fix his clients' first world problems. Which is kind of a first world problem in itself, really. He can't make them happy. He can't make himself happy, either.
So Hector channels his inner Tin Tin and embarks on a global adventure to find out what makes people happy. To everyone he meets, he asks, "Are you happy? What makes you happy?"
At one point in the story, he is hooked up to a machine that colour-codes the emotions he is experiencing. Yellow for happiness, blue for sadness, and acid-green for fear ("because fear eats away at you"). Something happens (I don't want to give it away) and Hector begins experiencing all of these emotions, and more, at once, and his brain glows like a rainbow. "It's an aurora borealis of the brain!" the observing scientist says.
Hector's emotions, when experienced all together, are beautiful.
How are you, dear friend? Are you happy? What makes you happy?
Images are screen grabs from the movie, taken by me. Here's the official trailer, if you're interested.