Happiness by Carl Sandburg I asked the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness. And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men. They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.
* * *
I read two things this morning that made an already good day even better…
The first thing I stumbled upon that I loved was this piece by artist, Howard Lyon, about the joy of doing something simply for the sake of losing yourself in a thing.
The Gist: A professional artist in Italy with his wife comes across someone painting in the streets, and that artist — an amateur — ends up being the artist the professional remembers…even more than all the works of masters seen on the trip.
I like this because I have enjoyed the work of many artists few people will ever see…
A Tale of Two Artists
My wife is an artist, and she no longer does art for money. Money stole the joy from what she did. To this day, some people still tell her, “You should do this for money!” or “You should do that for money!” — as though it’s never crossed her mind before; as though the art that makes her happy is somehow lesser art because it’s not typical and making her money.
I understand (and admire) my wife’s stance on the kind of art she prefers creating vs. the kind of art others think she should do.
Click here to see more of Cynthia’s artwork.
* * *
Late in my uncle’s life, he came to Texas from New Mexico to live with my mother. Somewhere along the way, he started painting.
While he did not become a great artist in the few years he painted before he died, he consistently got better. More than that, though: he found joy in what he did.
I have a small piece he did on the bookcase behind me. Sure, some might look at it and say the perspective is off or find other faults in the work, but it’s one of my all-time favorite pieces of art. In the trees especially, I can see my uncle’s joy in creating this quirky little painting the size of a book.
Click here to see a neat close-up.
This entry by Austin Kleon is the second link I came across this morning that I loved.
The Gist: It’s about piles of paper — mostly in the form of journals (but also one featuring David Letterman and stacked paper cups) — being a testament to human effort.
It’s an admirable goal: to create a pile of something that brings you joy. Whether it’s a physical representation, or comes in the form of memories of acts you loved doing, you are fortunate if you have a thing or two you love and make sure you do those things with a certain regularity.
Those acts are not just enough, but often major things that make a life worth living.
As I write this, my wife is in the other room playing her harp.
She will never be on a huge stage playing for thousands of adoring fans (performing is not her goal), but hearing her figuring out new tunes (and playing those she’s already taught herself to play) makes both of us happy.
I’ve mentioned that I bought a mandolin this year, and few things in life make me as happy as playing music with my wife. (She also plays fiddle — among other things.)
No matter how hectic the rush of days gets, there are always simple joys to be found.
I find it early in the morning in the writing I do.
It’s there after work when I sometimes appreciate a drink (or two) with my wife — or the occasion that I go out for a couple beers during the week with friends.
It’s time spent crowded around a table with friends whom I consider family playing Dungeons and Dragons.
It’s there recording podcasts with friends.
It’s evening walks with my wife, or something as simple as heading out to get breakfast on a dark and clear morning (today) and thinking, “I bet Orion should be right about…there!” and seeing a favorite constellation for the first time this season.
It’s journals — both electronic and physical — piling up; not because I think I have anything important to say, but because I take great joy in using my mind to think about more than just making money at a day job that sometimes requires overtime and ends up stealing my thoughts.
It’s time hiking or canoeing; time spent juggling and reading.
Joy is everywhere if you dedicate yourself to seeking it…
* * *
Chain photo: J.J. Ying
Kids Playing photo: Robert Collins