Vitality & Rapture, a post-coda for Happiness

My little coda for the Fall ’13 rendition of Happiness (PHIL 3160, aka HAP 101) looks a little glib this morning, in light of Andrew Solomon’s riveting new TED Talk last night..

Borrowing Anglo-American wit Bill Bryson’s “three reasons never to be unhappy,” I signed off with the light reminder (more soberly expressed by Professor Dawkins, and fictively by Richard Powers’ “Miss Generosity”) that we’re lucky to have been born at all. We’re not dead yet. Lunch is free.

I do believe that, and often feel it deeply and seriously.

But not always, not effortlessly. Not everyone can, without pain and struggle, without psychiatry and psycho-pharmacology. I’m not much given to depression, but my mother was. Some of my students are. I hope they can take steps to arrive where Solomon did, with vitality and rapture restored.

The question is not so much finding great meaning and deciding your depression has been very meaningful. It’s of seeking that meaning and deciding, when it comes again, “This will be hellish, but I will learn something from it.” I have learned in my own depression how big an emotion can be, and how it can be more real than facts… The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality… each day I decide, sometimes gamely, and sometimes against the moment’s reason, to cleave to the reasons for living. And that, I think, is a highly privileged rapture.

Or you could call it happiness.

via Blogger


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