We don’t have to be happy all the time

“I for one am afraid that our American culture’s overemphasis on happiness at the expense of sadness might be dangerous, a wanton forgetting of an essential part of a full life. I further am wary in the face of this possibility: to desire only happiness in a world undoubtedly tragic is to become inauthentic, to settle for unrealistic abstractions that ignore concrete situations. I am finally fearful over our society’s efforts to expunge melancholia from the system. Without the agitations of the soul, would all of our magnificently yearning towers topple? Would our heart-torn symphonies cease?” – Eric G. Wilson Against Happiness, in Praise of Melancholia

6 thoughts on “We don’t have to be happy all the time

  1. Happiness is undoubtedly important, but more so is the texture of our lives. I’ve found that melancholy, and the like, provides important punctuation in life enabling noticing and the opening of possibilities.

  2. Wonderful quote. I see this all the time. An aversion to unhappiness sometimes equals an aversion to thoughtfulness, to introspection. I can name many acquaintances who avoid “serious films” or literature at all costs. Instead they spend 100 percent of their entertainment time on the most harmless distractions Hollywood can churn out. The corollary to this emphasis on happiness is an emphasis on misplaced optimism. And, I say that as an unabashed full-time optimist. But America preaches a “if you believe it you can achieve it” wishfulness to people who lack the tools and discipline to really achieve meaningful goals. Again, a good dose of introspection would be welcome. Rather than happiness we need to help people find and create meaning in life.

  3. I can’t find a suitable quote from Lear but ‘nothing almost sees miracles but misery’ is adequate to explain happiness is impossible to feel without experiencing the opposite.

  4. We only grieve for what we love. Without grief, it becomes ever more difficult to find gratitude for the things we love and maintain a full and feeling connection with the life we are living.

  5. Denying melancholy is like denying night, without it we wouldn’t we know day. In the darker shadows lie authenticity, profound emotion and an empathy for universal suffering, underpinning our common humanity. There’s a particular creativity and expressiveness that only melancholy possesses, the dark beauty of the soul.

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