Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Random Acts of Happiness

How is it, when the chief sources of human unhappiness, of misery and wretchedness, have largely been removed from our lives … that happiness still eludes so many of us? … What is it in us, or in the world we have created, that continues to hold us back?

In the new edition of Quarterly Essay, David Malouf examines the condition of happiness in the modern world by returning to the wisdom of the classics. He writes of finding happiness in a most unlikely places.

I'm slightly unhappy about being unable to change this font out of italics. I'm also feeling a bit stir crazy today and would like to get the hell outta town, do a road trip to the Kundip shack, remove myself from being on call to grizzled old fishermen and other obligations. However I don't have the cash for fuel. This makes me (momentarily) unhappy, but not cripplingly so.

Speaking however of finding happiness in the most unlikely of places, my moments of true happiness, stillness and existential joy arrive when feeding animals, especially chickens. Standing in the chookpen and throwing wheat over the dirt to busily clucking chickens always makes me the happiest girl in the world.
When I mentioned this to my sister, whose profession is mechanics, she said: "Oh yes, I get that. My moments of true happiness come to me when I'm driving around in the bush, hunting for Valiant wrecks to rat parts from."

When do your random moments of pure, unthinking happiness arrive unbidden?  (I'll be out the back, feeding the chooks.)


  1. Watching the sea, looking out of my window at the karris, a moving solo (sax or electric guitar), watching the poodles be cute. Usually the simple things, mostly Nature.

  2. I LOVE chooks. Every year for 3 months I house-sit a guys 20 chooks on small acres in regional Victoria and they have such a good time when I do. I know what they are thinking.
    I love to lead them round the paddocks, lifting the earth with a long-handled shovel so they can pounce on worms.

  3. When Gino (cat) climbs into bed in the middle of the night and puts his head on my shoulder. The softness of his thick fur is incredible.

    Did David Malouf mention the way humans are connected? We are only as strong as the weakest link, so to speak. Japan, the Middle East and the local suburb of Glenorchy trouble me - I think it's part of being a compassionate member of the human race. Disaster, conflict and poverty affect one's mood.

  4. I agree absolutely Sontag, especially so for those who are more 'sensitive, or aware or whose lives are not completely concerned with survival and they have the time/space/grace to think of 'others'. I guess it's the Gaia theory? That we are one big organism.

  5. That connectedness has been part of my stir-craziness this week. Somewhere without a radio, television or newspaper sounds really good right now.
    But I still think momentary happiness can ambush us all in unexpected ways.
    "Happy Moments" is the name for a small fish with poisonous spines that give very nasty stings - some cynic's idea of a joke!

  6. "changing this font out of italics" ?

    when you are in Compose at the New Post stage, you will see a i in the ruler above the composing window.

    'Select' all your text, and then click the i to change italic on or off.

  7. Mmm thanks Ann. Didn't work this time and I think it was my cut and paste of Malouf's quote that mucked everything up.
    HOWEVER not cripplingly unhappy!
    Onward, momentary attacks of random happiness!

  8. If you compose stuff in Rich Text Format you can cut and paste without drama - no formatting problems, at least on a Mac anyway. Sometimes I just chuck all the text in RTF and then copy and paste to the blog.

  9. Digging weeds, turning over soil, writing something, sometimes. I used to get it driving, just going someplace, looking out the window, some great song playing away behind. I get it from the kids sometimes now, but to be honest, I can't remember the last time. I'm looking for things that flow at the moment. Doesn't matter what it is, it just has to move easily. Them water pictures back there....